What are the causes and how to heal them

Health, according to the World Health Organization, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.[1] A variety of definitions have been used for different purposes over time. Health can be promoted by encouraging healthful activities, such as regular physical exercise and adequate sleep,[2] and by reducing or avoiding unhealthful activities or situations, such as smoking or excessive stress. Some factors affecting health are due to individual choices, such as whether to engage in a high-risk behavior, while others are due to structural causes, such as whether the society is arranged in a way that makes it easier or harder for people to get necessary healthcare services. Still other factors are beyond both individual and group choices, such as genetic disorders.

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Dry nipples may be more common in breastfeeding mothers but nipples can get itchy and dry for various other reasons too.

When it comes to dry and cracked nipples, it is often associated with women who breastfeed. But that’s not the only cause. Women who do not breastfeed also experience this condition. Undoubtedly, nipples are one of the most sensitive parts of our entire body, so a simple mistake can make them prone to irritation, resulting in itching, dryness and flaking.

Having itchy and dry nipples can also sometimes be embarrassing as well. So to discuss this problem, HealthShots got in touch with Dr Rinky Kapoor, Consultant Dermatologist, Cosmetic Dermatologist and Dermato-Surgeon, The Esthetic Clinics, who explained all about this condition. 

dry nipples
There are several factors that can cause various changes in your nipples. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

So what are dry nipples?

Dry nipples are very common in both men and women. Most of the time, this issue is temporary and can be easily resolved with little care and lots of moisturizing. 

According to Dr Kapoor, dry and cracked nipples are mostly caused because of:

  • Chafing during sports 
  • Breastfeeding
  • Hormonal changes
  • Pregnancy
  • Tissue damage from cuts or injury
  • Using harsh soaps which deplete the natural oils of the skin and cause dryness
  • Irritation and chafing from synthetic fabrics 
  • Chlorine from pool or spa
  • Sexual activity
  • Bacterial or fungal infections
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Eczema
  • Paget’s disease and cancer

Are dry nipples a sign of a serious problem?

If your nipples get dry and itchy, it’s natural to wonder the worst. But you can have a sigh of relief. If you’re not experiencing abnormal nipple discharge, you’re good to go. Otherwise NOT. And you need to visit a doctor immediately. 

Are we supposed to moisturise nipples if they are dry?

When the nipples are dry or chaffing, you might experience dry and itchy skin and in some cases, there might be pain around the nipple area. The chafing and dryness usually increases during the winter months. 

Dr Kapoor said, “You can, of course, keep the area moisturized to prevent dryness, but a better and long-term solution is to treat the root cause of the problem.” Find out what is causing dryness! For example, is it your workout clothes that are rubbing against your nipples? Then a simple solution is to wear softer clothes. It is also possible that you are allergic to the nipple cream or lotion you use and get cracked, dry nipples or even eczema.

dry nipples
Dry nipples are more common during winter. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Whatever the cause may be, this might even result in pain and no one wants to experience it for a prolonged period of time. 

So what can you do to get rid of dry and flaky nipples?

Dr Kapoor shared some popular remedies that can prevent and treat dry nipples: 

  • If the cause of dry nipples is breastfeeding, then try applying fresh breast milk on the dry area. This will help keep the bacterial infections away too.
  • Eliminate irritating fabrics, soaps, perfumes, deodorants, etc. 
  • Use a warm compress on the dry nipples. It is simple to use. Dip a washcloth in warm water, wring out the excess liquid and keep the cloth on your nipple for a few minutes. Pat dry afterward.
  • Mix ½ teaspoon of regular salt with 250ml of water and soak your nipples in this mix for about a minute. Pat gently to dry. Make sure you use fresh saline water every time. 
  • Lanolin ointment. A 100% lanolin ointment is recommended for breastfeeding mothers. 
  • Avoid the activity that is causing nipple irritation
  • Colloidal oatmeal also reduces dryness. 
  • If it is your clothes causing the chafing, then placing some adhesive bandage over the nipple area will help avoid this. 
  • Drink a lot of water to keep the area hydrated from inside. 
  • Apply peppermint oil to your milk for healing.
  • You can also use good petroleum jelly to soften your nipple and prevent dryness and chaffing
  • Women should avoid wearing loose fitting sports bras.

Follow these tips and you’ll be fine.

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