Sex & Relationships

Hard nipples : 12 possible causes

Hard nipples, something that most of us have heard about. Are they normal? When someone has hard nipples, they think it is abnormal and thinks of the reasons which can cause it.

Someone can relate to various health problems like cancer or other serious disease. But it is common and it doesn’t always have to be related to some serious health issues.

1. Allergy and sensitivity

As we all know that nipples are the most sensitive parts of the body.  We use many skin care products like soaps, shower gels, and lotions for our breast care. It’s more likely that it will easily react to different stimuli and have allergy or sensitivity.

Hard nipples is just one sign of allergy and sensitivity. Other symptoms you should watch for hard nipples are:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Chapping
  • Rash

These other symptoms can be also due to the detergent and the soap that we used.

2. Sexual activity

According to the Boston University school of medicine, pleasure, and forceful friction during sexual activities can result in hardening of nipples. Even intense oral stimulation causes the nipple to be tender and sore.

The breast becomes engorged during sexual arousal, which increases blood flow to areolas, causing it. These hardened nipples are usually temporary and it will resolve on its own after some time.

3. Pregnancy

Breast changes are one of the signs of pregnancy. Soreness and tender nipples are typical during pregnancy. It is particularly true during the first-trimester pregnancy. You can see its symptoms in the third trimester of pregnancy too. Fluctuating in hormones and increases in blood supply are physiological causes. 

The other breast changes that you may experience during pregnancy are:

  • Darker areolas
  • Tender and sensitive breast
  • Bigger areolas

You can use well-fitting support bra to minimize chafing, pain, and itchiness.

4. Menstrual cycle

There are many symptoms of menstruation that your breast experience. One is the hardening of nipples. Nipple tenderness and soreness in menstruation occur due to an increase in the progesterone level. The progesterone levels rise about a week before a period begins.  Your other symptoms like pain, sensitivity subside when progesterone level normalizes. Estrogen also plays a vital role in sore and tender nipples.

5. Perimenopause and post menopause

There are many changes that women go through their perimenopause and menopause period. Some of the changes that women experience during her perimenopause and menopause period are:

  • Irregular periods
  • Sleep problem
  • Mood changes
  • Difficulty in micturation
  • Decreased fertility

Among all these changes, hardening of nipples are also one of the important changes during this period. This is because of the decline in estrogen levels. There are also many hormones that get shifts during this period and causes hard nipples.

6. Birth control pills

Some of the side effects of oral contraceptive pills are the same as pregnancy. Above you have read the changes occur during the pregnancy. Hard nipples can be from the side effects of the birth control pills. If these side effects do not resolve with the time, you must visit a gynecologist as soon as possible.

7. Nipple piercings

Nipple piercings have become popular among both men and women in the recent world. The nipples became more or less sensitive after it gets pierced.  It reacts quicker to stimuli like fabric or someone’s touch. So nipple piercing is one of the reasons for our concerned problem.

Nipple piercing feels great when the needle passes through your nipple, but they do come with some risks. You may suffer from mastitis because bacteria can enter your breast from the hole created by the piercing. Mastitis is defined as breast tissue infection that causes hard nipples.

Some of the symptoms of mastitis that you should know about it are:

  • Breast pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Fever

8. Certain medication and herbs

Anti-depressant medicines have been linked to painful breasts and other symptoms in the breast and nipples.

Some herbal medicine that is used to promote breast milk can also cause nipple pain, sensitivity, and nipple hardening.

9. Mammary duct ectasia

Mammary duct ectasia is also known as duct ectasia, is a benign condition that occurs due to widening and thickening of wall of the milk duct. It occurs most often in women close to menopause. It can cause the duct to become blocked. It does not increase or lead to the risk of breast cancer.

You can experience tenderness, redness, itchiness, pain, and thick discharge in the duct ectasia. This condition may lead to the development of mastitis or any other type of breast infection. Commonly antibiotics are used as management purposed. In some cases, surgery may be required for the block ducts.

10. Breast abscess

In the breast abscess, there is a collection of pus which leads to mastitis. It is the result of bacteria entering to breast either during nipple piercings or any other cracked skin. A breast abscess is a very painful condition that can lead to hard nipples.

Some signs and symptoms of breast abscess are:

  • Fever
  • Tenderness in breast
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Lack of energy

Small abscess can be drained easily with a needle and syringe, while larger abscess require an incision.

11. Reynaud’s phenomenon

Reynaud’s phenomenon is common in nursing mothers. It is not just that nursing mother only develops it, anyone can have its symptoms.

The anterior intercostal artery, internal thoracic artery gets spam in this phenomenon. Restricted blood flow from these arteries causes numbness, burning, nipple hardening, and changes in skin color (white and blue).

12. Exercises

DO you know exercises can cause nipple friction and pain?

This is especially true for women who don’t wear sports bra doing exercises.

These types of friction created during exercises can causes soreness, dryness, irritation, and evening bleeding.

Long distances runner like marathon runners who exercise excessively and who don’t care about their exercise suits may experience hard nipples and other symptoms.

What are the causes of painful and hard nipples in men?

Both men and women can develop hard and painful nipples. There are many causes of this in men. Some of the causes in men are discussed below:

1. Allergy and sensitivity

As same as women, men can also develop it due to allergies from any new clothing or fabric. Cotton fabrics can lead to greater sensitivity or contact dermatitis. If you experience any hives, oozing, blisters, dry skin, burning, and swelling skin, its better to avoid wearing such clothing. You can apply cool compresses to the affected area, and you can speak with your doctor.

2. Nipple infection

There are many reasons behind the nipple infections. It can develop either from self grooming or using razor on nipple hairs. Nipple piercing is less common in the men but it’s also one of the important causes of hard nipples in women.

Any trauma to the nipple and aureolar tissue can causes significant bleeding and pain. Infection may also develop from such trauma. So infection is also one of the reason behind the hard nipples in me.

3. Gynaecomastia

Gynecomastia is an enlargement of men’s breasts due to an imbalance between estrogen and testosterone as well as from lifestyle factors and also from the side effects of certain medications. So the gynecomastia is also one of the reasons for painful and hard nipples.

4. Breast cancer

Men are less risk of developing the breast cancer. A painless lump or thickened breast tissue may be sign of  breast cancer in male. Men with breast cancer may experience the following symptoms in the nipple:

  • Redness
  • Scaly skin
  • Retraction

In extreme cases, men can develop open sores if cancer has progressed. It’s important for every man to screened who experience the above symptoms. You can also maintain a healthy lifestyle. Family history can be also the reason for breast cancer. So breast cancer is one of the causes of the hard and painful nipples.

5. Paget disease

Paget disease is one of the causes of the painful and hard nipples both in men and women. Paget disease mainly affects the nipple and areola which causes crusty or itchy skin around the nipples. Most people with Paget disease can develop a malignancy. If the symptoms like nipple sensitivity and pain do not improve, you must visit your doctor as soon as possible.

When to see a doctor for hard nipples?

When the tenderness and other symptoms like color changes, soreness, or discharge, they are the rare sign of malignancy. These symptoms may not get resolve easily on their own. Then you need to book a quick schedule for your doctor. you must also take care of your erect nipples.

Women and men who cannot identify the causes of these symptoms are at high risk of developing breast cancer. Something there are some hidden symptoms that require a doctor to get exposed. So it’s necessary to visit the doctor for this reason too.


It’s important to keep in mind that nipples and breasts need some routine support too. You can go to the self-breast examination. There’s no shame no talking about breast and nipple with your friends and family. There are some minor mistakes that cause hard nipples. Like simple wearing the correct bra size with adequate support will prevent you from the painful and hard nipple.


World of Medical Saviours (WOMS) is a website formed by a group of medicos who are embarking to provide facts, tips and knowledge related to health and lifestyle. This website proves to be a great platform for the medical enthusiast and also for those medicos searching to outgrowth their knowledge about the medical field.

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