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This is what it means if you have nipple discharge

See the causes

Causes of nipple discharge

Nipple discharge during pregnancy and when lactating is normal. However, it can be alarming when you have some fluid seeping from your nipples yet you are neither pregnant nor lactating. Even though some causes of nipple discharge are nothing serious, you should see your doctor to rule out the possibility of a medical condition.

Depending on the cause of the discharge, you might notice a difference in colour and thickness of the discharge. Also, you may be having discharge from one or both nipples. While we might think of nipple discharge as a women’s problem only, men also experience it. It happens in rare cases though which is why men should be concerned if they notice any discharge from their nipples.

Causes of nipple discharge

So what does it mean when you have nipple discharge and what are some of its causes? Some possible causes include:


1. Breast cancer

I know, we all get shivers at the mention of the word ‘cancer’. But here is the thing, nipple discharge does not always mean you have breast cancer. Even so, when accompanied by other symptoms of breast cancer, the only best thing to do is see your doctor.

Research studies have also found that nipple discharge is one of the earliest presenting signs of breast cancer. So don’t just ignore it unless your doctor has ruled out otherwise.

2. Breast infection(Mastitis)


Mastitis is more common among lactating women but men and women who aren’t breastfeeding can also have it.

If your nipple discharge has pus, it could be a sign of infection or what’s popularly known as mastitis. It affects one breast and you might also notice redness, soreness and warmth around the affected breast.

3. Intraductal papilloma

Studies show that this is the commonest cause of pathological nipple discharge accounting up to 40% of the cases. This condition is whereby a benign lump develops in one or more of the milk ducts. You might experience blood-stained discharge from your nipples accompanied by a small lump which is usually painless in most cases.


This condition is treated through surgery to remove the non-cancerous breast lump.

4. Hormonal reasons

Prolactin is the hormone responsible for milk production in lactating mothers. However, even men and women who are not breastfeeding produce some amount of this hormone. Some health conditions, contraceptives, and medications can trigger the production of prolactin in high levels causing nipple discharge. This type of discharge is usually milky and is known as Galactorrhoea.


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