While the condition is painless, inverted nipples can have a negative impact on a person's self-esteem and body image. Nipple inversion can occur in both men and women. For women, it can present extra challenges, as it can make breastfeeding more challenging or even impossible.
So what causes inverted nipples?
Inverted nipples are generally caused by either the structure of the nipple or the surrounding skin and underlying tissue. In some instances, milk ducts and other tissues within the nipples can become shortened. Scar tissue can even cause inverted nipples.
What are the levels of inversions?
During a consultation, your surgeon will be able to assess your nipples and let you know your level of inversion. This is based on a scale that ranges from 1 to 3. The first level is referred to as the "shy" nipple. In this case, the nipple may begin to protrude as a result of cold stimulation, but after a while goes back to being inverted. At level 2, the nipple will stay inverted at all times. Level 3, the most severe level, involves the nipple never protruding at all as a result of severe scarring or tissue constriction.
For levels 1 and 2, often non-surgical options can offer a temporary solution. Suction devices can be used, which provide pressure and cause the nipple to protrude. However, this is not permanent and does not adjust the structural internal problem which is causing the inversion. For a permanent solution, surgery is the best option.
What can I expect during surgery?
Some people may be hesitant to undergo surgery, particularly those that are planning on having children and breastfeeding. However, newer surgical techniques work to preserve milk ducts, rather than severing them. Our surgical techniques address the fibres surrounding the nipple which is causing the inversion. These fibres are stretched and spread. This method is completed by having the nipple in a protruded position and making a small incision within the areola. After this is completed, dissolving sutures will be placed under the skin, which will hold the nipple in the new projected position. Next, a protective device is placed over the nipple which stops them from retracting during the healing process.
The surgery is completed under a local anaesthetic and takes about one hour to complete.
What is the recovery period like?
The applied sutures will naturally dissolve within a few weeks. You will have a slight scar, however, this is generally not noticeable, as only a small incision is made. Furthermore, the surface colour and texture of the nipple help to hide the scar.
After the surgery, it is normal to experience some swelling and discomfort. You will be able to take pain medication to alleviate any symptoms.
The results will be visible immediately, with the results generally being permanent.
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