Breast skin and nipple changes

Also known as: Inverted nipple and Nipple discharge


Learn about skin and nipple changes in the breast so you know when to see a health care provider.

Notice Changes in Your Breasts and Nipples


  • This is normal if your nipples have always been indented inward and can easily point out when you touch them.
  • If your nipples are pointing in and this is new, talk to your provider right away.


This can be caused by scar tissue from surgery or an infection. Often, scar tissue forms for no reason. See your provider. Most of the time this issue does not need treatment.


This is almost always caused by an infection in your breast. It is rarely due to breast cancer. See your are provider for treatment.


  • This is usually eczema or a bacterial or fungal infection. See your provider for treatment.
  • Flaking, scaly, itchy nipples can be a sign of Paget's disease. This is a rare form of breast cancer involving the nipple.


This is called peau d'orange because the skin looks like an orange peel. An infection in the breast or inflammatory breast cancer can cause this problem. See your health provider right away.


Your nipple was raised above the surface but begins to pull inward and does not come out when stimulated. See your provider if this is new.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you notice:

  • Your nipple is retracted or pulled in when it was not that way before.
  • Your nipple has changed in shape.
  • Your nipple becomes tender and it is not related to your menstrual cycle.
  • Your nipple has skin changes.
  • You have new nipple discharge.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will talk to you about your medical history and recent changes you have noticed in your breasts and nipples. Your provider will also do a breast exam and may suggest that you see a skin doctor (dermatologist) or breast specialist.

You may have these tests done:

  • Mammogram
  • Breast ultrasound
  • Biopsy
  • Other tests for nipple discharge


Atopic dermatitis, eczema, and noninfectious immunodeficiency disorders. In: James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 5.

Review date:
December 07, 2016
Reviewed by:
Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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