What is an Inverted Nipple?
While it might seem obvious that an inverted nipple is one that sinks inwards rather than protruding outward, this description actually covers two distinct conditions. If your nipple sometimes pulls inwards but you can bring it out using your fingers you have what is called a retracted nipple, something which shouldn't require any attention.
If your nipple is always sunken, it is known as an inverted nipple. It is caused by the milk ducts (the canals that carry milk to the surface) being short, to the point that they put enough pulling force on the nipple to overcome the nipple's muscle. Pregnancy and breastfeeding can contribute to this process.
Is an Inverted Nipple a Medical Concern?
In most cases, particularly when you have had an inverted nipple all your life, there is no medical problem whatsoever. If it develops later in life, it is possible it is caused by breast cancer. Don't panic about this, but do get it checked out by a doctor as soon as possible, and certainly before you explore any cosmetic procedures.
Is Surgery the Only Way to Correct Inverted Nipples?
No, you can try several non-invasive solutions first. Most of these involve what is effectively a suction cup that pulls the nipple into place. The idea is that if you do this repeatedly, it eventually builds up the muscle enough to overcome the pull of the milk duct. Because it has no side effects other than some possible pain, it is a particularly popular solution among breastfeeding mothers.
What About Surgery?
If other solutions do not work, you can consider nipple correction surgery for cosmetic purposes. This is a quick procedure carried out under local anaesthetic and involves the milk ducts either being released or divided, reducing their pull on the nipple. The procedure does involve stitches, though these are soluble and thus will not need removing. You will need to wear a light dressing for two weeks before a follow-up examination. Any scarring will usually be clearly visible for a few months and then fade away over the next year or two.
Can Anyone Have Nipple Correction Surgery?
The effects of the surgery on the breast itself will vary depending on the extent to which the surgeon has to cut or divide the milk ducts. It may limit or remove the ability to breastfeed. Because of this, if you plan to have children, you will need to talk over the potential effects before going ahead.
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Is Nipple Correction Surgery Just for Inverted Nipples?
No - corrective surgery can be carried out to treat a number of other issues and make different cosmetic changes. Among these changes are nipple realignment, during which the nipples are adjusted to be even with one another, a nipple lift to raise them back to a “pert” position, and areola reduction, a popular cosmetic surgery to reduce the size of the coloured part around the nipple.
Nipples can be uneven when compared between the two breasts; one may be higher or lower than the other, for example. In fact, asymmetrical nipples are quite common. This unevenness can be corrected with a simple nipple realignment surgery. The tissue is removed around the nipple, and it is repositioned by the surgeon to become more even. If the nipple is too low however, you may need a different surgery called a mastopexy to readjust it appropriately. The procedure can be carried out under a local anaesthesia as an outpatient surgery, and there is generally a short recovery time.
Breastfeeding and the natural ageing process can cause the breast to sag, leaving nipples pointing downwards. In order to correct this, a nipple lift procedure can be carried out. The breasts will remain the same, but the nipples and areola will be adjusted to a higher level. The outpatient procedure is carried out under a local anaesthetic and only takes about half an hour. During this time, the surgeon will lift the nipples to a more natural height, ensuring the nerves and blood vessels remain intact. There is normally a small scar around the top of the nipple, but this will fade in time.
The areola is the pigmented area around the nipple. It can be the case that this is large and disproportionate to the nipple itself, which can be corrected with a cosmetic procedure known as areola reduction. The average areola should measure around 4.7cm, and so anything larger than this could be reduced with a simple surgery. A circular area of the outer areola is removed, and the surrounding skin pulled tight to compensate for it. Dissolvable stitches are used to complete the surgery, after which the reduction will be permanent with little scarring to show for it.
What Are the Costs?
The cost of basic nipple correction surgery starts at around £700, but can potentially rise to a few thousand pounds depending on the procedure. For more complicated cases, you could expect to pay upwards of £900-£3,000 per nipple.
While online research is a helpful place to start, the best way to find out what you could expect to pay is to have a consultation with a surgeon who will be able to accurately judge how much work is needed for the correction. Costs can vary from clinic to clinic, and many will offer partial payment plans to help you spread the cost of your surgery, so remember to ask about this during your consultation.
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