Nipple Discharge: A Guide for All Genders


Nipple Discharge: A Guide for All Genders

Nipples are a raised area in the center of the breast or chest growth. They’re surrounded by the areola, a circular patch of skin that’s usually slightly darker than the rest of the chest. Nipples contain nerves and an opening for milk or other fluids, called the milk duct or lactiferous duct.
Nipples are most associated with making and releasing milk. But there are lots of things that can cause fluid to come out of the nipples! When nipples release fluid that’s not milk, the fluid is often called discharge.

What is nipple discharge?

What nipple discharge is made of depends on what’s causing it. It can be mostly made of milk, or it could be other fluids. Usually it contains plasma. It may also contain blood or pus.

What causes it?

Nipple discharge is common for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. But there’s lots of other things that can cause it! Changes in hormones, interactions from certain drugs, injury, and certain illnesses can all result in nipple discharge. So can nipple stimulation, like someone squeezing the chest!
Usually, discharge from the nipples is nothing to worry about. It may be the result of a minor condition, like a benign cyst. Or it could be caused by changes in the body, like menopause or starting HRT. But sometimes, it can be a result of a more serious condition. A doctor can tell you for sure!

Can anyone have nipple discharge?

Yes, anyone can have nipple discharge! Often, people associate it with pregnancy. Some might assume that because of this, only people with vaginas can have nipple discharge. But this isn’t true! All breasts or chest growths have nipples, areolas, nerves, blood vessels and lymph vessels. While most people assigned male at birth don’t develop the lobes and glandular tissue that produces milk, their breasts can still produce fluid. Changes in hormones, drug interactions, illness and injury can all cause nipple discharge in people regardless of their gender or whether or not their breasts produce milk.

When to see a doctor

While a lot of the causes for nipple discharge aren’t harmful, some of them can be. If you aren’t breastfeeding and fluid is coming out of your nipples, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor about it! This is especially true if it contains blood or pus, or if they can also feel a lump nearby.
Regular breast self-exams can help spot potential problems early. People of all genders can do breast self-exams! If you have a family doctor, you can also have them do the exam. Self-exams are recommended for people who have a family history of breast cancer or breast disease, and who don’t have a family doctor they see regularly.

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