Inverted Nipples

An inverted nipple is one which is sunken inward rather than sticking outward. Inverted nipples are usually harmless and can often be drawn out using stimulation or cold temperatures.

There are a variety of self-help techniques you can use to correct your inverted nipples, including suction cups and nipple piercings. If these do not work, your only option will be to have surgery to correct your inverted nipples.

Inverted nipple surgery is a relatively quick procedure with a very small risk of complications. It costs approximately £1,900 in the UK, although prices do vary depending on the severity of your nipple inversion.

What is an Inverted Nipple?
Inverted Nipple Grades
What is the Cause of Inverted Nipples?
How to get Rid of Inverted Nipples
Inverted Nipple Surgery
Are There Any Risks?
Inverted Nipple Surgery Costs
Can You get Inverted Nipple Surgery on the NHS?

What Is An Inverted Nipple?

An inverted nipple is one which is ‘sunken inward’ (or retracted) more than it is ‘sticking outward’ (or protruding). You can have just one inverted nipple, or two. Some nipples are inverted only some of the time, meaning they can be made to protrude via stimulation or cold temperatures. Conversely, some nipples are permanently inverted meaning that they will never protrude without surgical intervention.

Approximately 10% of women have at least one inverted nipple, although they can affect men too. Most of the time, inverted nipples are harmless and do not increase your risk of developing any health issues. This is especially true if you have had an inverted nipple all your life. Inverted nipples that develop suddenly later in life can sometimes be an indication of a serious medical condition.

Inverted Nipple Grades

Inverted nipples are classified into three grades, depending on their degree of retraction. The three inverted nipple grades are:

  • Grade I: nipples that can be drawn out by gently pushing and squeezing on the areola area with the thumb and index finger, or via stimulation or breastfeeding. Doing this should mean that the nipple stays protruded for some time.

  • Grade II: nipples that are more difficult to draw out using the methods above and that don’t stay protruded for any length of time.

  • Grade III: nipples that are very difficult or impossible to draw out using self-help methods, and need surgical intervention to make them protrude.

What Is The Cause Of Inverted Nipples?

Inverted nipples can either be present from birth (congenital inverted nipples) or they can develop later in life (acquired inverted nipples). There are many reasons why women have inverted nipples. While most causes are not dangerous, very occasionally an inverted nipple can be a symptom of a much more harmful disease.

Some of the most common causes of an inverted nipple are:

  • Genetic disorders: a genetic disorder can mean that you are born with at least one inverted nipple. This can be caused by a missing chromosome, or simply by a genetically determined difference in the shape of your nipple, just as we’re all born with different shaped noses or mouths, for example.

  • Breastfeeding: breastfeeding can cause your nipples to become inverted. This occurs when breastfeeding damages your milk ducts, causing them to retract. Consequently, this pulls your nipple inwards.

  • Breast surgery: if you have had previous surgery on your breasts, this can very occasionally cause your nipples to become inverted due to a build-up of scar tissue.

  • Breast cancer: in rare cases, an inverted nipple can be a symptom of breast cancer. This disease can cause the nipple to sink inward as a tumour attacks the duct behind the nipple. A cancerous inverted nipple is often accompanied by other symptoms however, such as a lump in your breast or skin irritation.

An inverted nipple usually isn’t a cause for concern, but if you suddenly develop one then it’s best to see your GP. It is possible that it has been caused by something potentially serious such as breast cancer, so it’s best to put your mind at rest.

Which cup size would you like to be?

How To Get Rid Of Inverted Nipples

It’s understandable that inverted nipples can cause some embarrassment, especially when undressing in public or in front of a new partner. Depending on the grade of your nipple inversion, it is possible to treat them yourself at home using self-help techniques. Not all of these techniques will work on all grades of inverted nipples, so try not to become disheartened if they don’t cause your nipple to protrude.

The Hoffman Technique

This involves using your thumbs to draw out your inverted nipples. To perform the Hoffman technique, position each thumb either side of the base of your nipple, keeping within the darker area of your areola. Press down firmly with your thumbs whilst at the same time gently moving them apart. Repeat this action around your nipple until it protrudes. How long your nipple stays protruded will depend on your breasts.

Suction cups

These small devices are usually worn under clothing for an extended period of time to make the nipple protrude. They work by using gentle suction to stimulate your nipple and draw it out. Over time, it is believed that suction cups can help to loosen the tissue that keeps your nipple sunken inward, allowing it to protrude for longer periods of time. Suction cups are often sold under different names, such as nipple extractors or nipple cups.

Nipple piercing

Having your nipple pierced can cause your inverted nipple to stick out since the jewellery placed into your nipple can help to keep it erect. If you choose this option, you must make sure that your body piercer has experience in piercing inverted nipples. If your nipple is pierced when it hasn’t been properly drawn out, your nipple can still invert even when the jewellery has been positioned inside your nipple. Also bear in mind that taking the jewellery out can cause your nipples to become inverted again, so it is important that you do not take your nipple piercing out for extended periods of time.

Inverted Nipple Surgery

Self-help techniques often only provide a temporary solution to your inverted nipples. If you’re looking for a permanent fix, then you should consider having inverted nipple surgery. It is worth choosing surgery if you have already tried a variety of methods and these have failed to make your nipple protrude.

There are two types of nipple correction surgery: surgery that keeps the milk ducts intact and surgery that doesn’t. For both types of surgery, you’ll normally only need a local anaesthetic and the procedure will usually take between thirty minutes to two hours to complete. Following the surgery, your nipple will be dressed with a gauze and you’ll normally be advised not to wear padded bras or tight tops for a couple of weeks to avoid pushing the nipple back in again.

Surgery With Preserved Milk Ducts

Women who undergo this type of inverted nipple surgery will still be able to breastfeed after the treatment since the milk ducts will still be connected to the nipple. This surgery is recommended for women with babies and young children who still breastfeed, or for those who want further children in the future.

  • Your surgeon will make an incision around your nipple to separate it from the breast tissue

  • A splint is then placed at the base of the nipple and secured with a stitch to hold the nipple in an erect position

  • The incision will be closed using stitches and the splint will need to be removed after approximately one week

Surgery With Detached Milk Ducts

This is the most common type of inverted nipple surgery. If you have this type of surgery you will no longer be able to breastfeed following the procedure as your milk ducts are disconnected from the nipple.

  • Your surgeon will make an incision around your nipple to separate it from the breast tissue

  • Your milk ducts will then be disconnected from your nipple to enable it to protrude outwards

  • The incision will be closed using stitches

Which cup size would you like to be?

Are There Any Risks?

Inverted nipple surgery is a very common procedure with a very low risk of complications. Although you will experience some mild discomfort for a few days after the surgery, you should be able to return to your normal activities within a couple of days.

There are a small number of risks associated with the surgery that you should be aware of however, although the chance of them occurring is extremely small. Your surgeon will explain these risks to you during your pre-operative consultation and answer any worries you have about the safety of the surgery. Risks include:

  • The nipple retracting again
  • Scarring to the surrounding breast tissue
  • Pain in the nipple and surrounding breast tissue
  • Infection at the incision site
  • Asymmetric nipples

Inverted Nipple Surgery Costs

The cost of inverted nipple surgery at a private cosmetic surgery clinic is fairly low due to the simplicity of the procedure. Because the surgery is carried out under local anaesthetic and on an outpatient basis (meaning you can return home on the same day), this also helps to keep costs down.

The average cost of inverted nipple surgery in the UK is approximately £1,900, although prices will vary depending on which private clinic you visit and the severity of your nipple inversion. Below is a summary of the starting price of inverted nipple surgery at some of the leading private cosmetic surgery clinics in the UK:

Clinic Starting Price
Aurora Clinics £1,500
Harley Medical Group £2,900
MedBelle £1,540
Spire Healthcare £2,223
The Private Clinic £1,500

Prices correct as of September 2017

Bear in mind that many private clinics offer their customers the option of paying for their surgery on finance to help to spread the cost. Finance options normally involve you paying a small deposit prior to the surgery, followed by a series of fixed monthly payments over a pre-agreed period of time to pay off the remaining balance. You should discuss what options are available to you with your patient coordinator to find one that best suits your needs.

Can You Get Inverted Nipple Surgery On The NHS?

In very rare cases, it is possible to get surgery for inverted nipples for free on the NHS. This depends on your circumstances and where you live in the UK. In order to qualify, you will need to undergo extensive testing to measure the impact of your inverted nipples on your mental and physical health. If you think that you could be eligible, the first step is to talk to your GP.

What Next?

We'll help you find affordable breast surgery clinics

Compare Quotes