At some point in their lives, many people experience a common, yet slightly embarrassing problem: itchy breasts (or nipples, if we’re going to get specific about it). If you find yourself tugging at your shirt and scratching at your bra, you might be wondering what culprit is behind this mysterious itch. From causes as benign as skin irritation to more alarming roots like skin cancer, there are many potential reasons as to why your breasts and nipples are so itchy.
So, without further ado, here are 7 possible causes behind those itchy breasts:
During pregnancy, breasts undergo major changes (which you probably already knew). Hormonal changes, breast expansion, and increased blood flow can all contribute to itchy breasts during and after pregnancy, according to MedicalNewsToday. Additionally, breastfeeding can chafe or dry out nipples, leading to skin irritation. Experts recommend avoiding harsh, drying soaps, as well as applying a small amount of breastmilk to the area to help relieve some of this dryness.
Mastitis is also a common condition afflicting new mothers that can lead to breast itchiness. This issue can happen as a result of a blocked milk duct or bacterial exposure. Additional signs to watch out for include:
- breast tenderness
- pain or burning when breast-feeding
Atopic dematitis, otherwise known as eczema, is a common reason behind itchy skin. Although the causes behind this condition are still largely unknown, there are a number of factors that can contribute and worsen this skin irritation, including:
- artificial fibers
- wool fibers
To treat eczema, consider consulting your dermatologist or looking out for over-the-counter solutions.
In many cases, itchy breasts and nipples can be the result of your bra. Especially if you don’t wash your bras often enough, this can lead to skin irritation and itchiness.
“Dirty clothes, including underclothes, often have bacteria that can irritate the skin,” Dr. Gary Goldenberg, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology, explained to Self.
On the other hand, your discomfort could be caused by irritating material or fabric in your bra. Goldenberg specifically points to latex and polyester as some of the most common skin irritants.
According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, contact dermatitis is a skin condition that occurs when your skin is exposed to an irritating object or substance. Anything from laundry detergent to perfume could be causing an allergic reaction, resulting in skin itchiness.
According to Mayo Clinic, psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes red, itchy, scaly patches on the body. Similar to eczema, these patches can happen anywhere, including the breasts. Although it can be difficult to discern psoriasis from eczema, here are some symptoms to watch out for that can help distinguish this disease:
- Red patches of skin covered with thick, silvery scales
- Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
- Dry, cracked skin that may bleed or itch
- Itching, burning or soreness
- Thickened, pitted or ridged nails
- Swollen and stiff joints
While you may be familiar with vaginal yeast infections, you may not have realized that they can also occur underneath your breasts. Goldenberg explained that yeast infections are pretty common underneath breasts. As moisture gets trapped in the area, it creates an environment ideal for yeast growth, resulting in itchy breasts. If this is the case, watch out for other related symptoms including red rash, pimple-like bumps, burning, or skin patches that ooze clear fluid.
Although rare, breast and nipple itchiness could be a symptom of breast cancer. According to Healthline, Paget disease of the breast (a rare form of cancer that specifically affects the nipple) can cause these irritating symptoms. Additionally, a cancerous tumor in the breast could be behind your breast discomfort. Early symptoms of Paget disease often mimic other skin irritations, so be on the look out for these symptoms:
- flattened nipples
- a lump in the breast
- discharge from the nipple
- skin changes on the nipple or breast
Moreover, Healthline also notes that breast warmth and itching could be a sign of breast cancer, specifically inflammatory breast cancer.