Inverted nipples occur when the nipple is retracted into the breast, rather than pointing outward. As many as 2 percents of American women have at least one inverted nipple. Most cases of inverted nipples are congenital – they have been that way from birth. In some cases, however, inverted nipples may happen as a result of scar tissue buildup after breastfeeding an infant. There are three grades for nipple inversion:
Grade I: Sometimes referred to as “shy nipples.” Although the nipple is inverted, it can easily be drawn out either through physical stimulation or application of cold. It will then stay erect for some time afterward. Women with shy nipples can breastfeed as normal.
Grade II: Although the nipple can still be drawn out, it will generally retract almost immediately afterward. Breastfeeding may be possible but is not certain.
Grade III: Severely inverted and cannot be drawn out at all. Breastfeeding is impossible. Patients may suffer from rashes and infections around the nipple and areola.
Can Breast Implants Correct Inverted Nipples?
In a few cases of Grade I nipple inversion, breast implants may help. However, the vast majority of cases – and certainly for Grade II and Grade II nipple inversions – will need to be treated with nipple surgery.
How Can Surgery Correct Inverted Nipples?
In most cases, surgery for inverted nipples can be done on an outpatient basis. Patients can opt for local anesthesia, local anesthesia with sedation, or general anesthesia. The surgery can also be done in conjunction with a breast augmentation procedure.
After I have drawn out the nipple, I will then make a small incision at the base of the nipple, which does not sever the milk ducts. Once the cause of the inversion has been determined, and the fibrous bands tethering the nipple have been properly released, vertical incisions are made parallel to the milk ducts instead of across, if possible. This may spare some of the milk ducts so that patients with Grade I or Grade II nipple inversions may later be able to breastfeed. Internal, dissolvable sutures are then placed from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock and 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock positions. This helps anchor the nipple in the proper everted or outward-facing position.
Inverted Nipple Surgery Recovery and Results
Recovery is generally quick, usually taking no more than two to three weeks. The most common side effects following surgery will be swollen and tender nipples. Scarring is usually quite minimal and will not be visible with bathing suits or low-cut tops. However, it may take the nipples up to a month or two to settle into their final shape.
Inverted nipples can affect more than just a woman’s feelings about her appearance, her sexuality, and her ability to breastfeed. They can also have other health consequences as a result of constant rashes and infections. For patients with inverted nipples, this simple surgery can go a long way toward improving their appearance, self-esteem, and general breast health.
*The content in this blog is developed to spread the awareness towards plastic surgery. Our blog is not intended to serve as a replacement for an actual in-office consultation with Dr. Marin. As such, the information within this blog reflects the unique cases of our individual patients.