Eczema on nipples causes an itchy, red, scaly rash on your nipples and areola (the darker circle around the nipple). The rash isn’t contagious. There’s no cure for eczema, but you can relieve symptoms by avoiding things that cause a flare-up, such as harsh soaps and lotions. See your provider for an exam and to rule out other conditions.
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a condition that causes an itchy rash to develop on your skin. The rash can appear anywhere on your body. Eczema can develop on your nipples as well as your areola (the dark circle of skin surrounding the nipples). This condition affects babies, children and adults of all genders.
Eczema on your nipples isn’t dangerous. But it can lead to an infection, especially if you scratch the rash. Scratching can break your skin and allow bacteria to enter. It can also cause your skin to thicken and harden over time.
Nipple eczema can get worse when your nipples come into contact with irritants such as harsh laundry detergents, soaps and lotions. There is no cure for eczema, but you can relieve symptoms by avoiding the irritants that make eczema worse and using emollients such as petroleum jelly (Vaseline®) or other products that help increase the barrier function of your skin. Providers can also treat eczema with steroid creams, medications and even light treatments.
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Most of the time, eczema develops before age 5. It’s one of the most common skin problems in children. Many children outgrow the condition.
People of all genders can get eczema on their nipples. Some people develop the rash all over their body, including their nipples and areola. Other people only have eczema on their nipples and areola, but not on the rest of their body. You’re more likely to get eczema (atopic dermatitis) if you have:
Eczema is very common. It affects around 15 million people in the United States, usually in cities. Every year, providers diagnose eczema in around 10% of adults and up to 20% of kids. It’s more common among women and Black people. Only a small number of people with eczema will get it on their nipples.
Eczema is a type of dermatitis. It isn’t contagious. You can’t get it from someone else, and you can’t spread it. Eczema results from:
People with nipple eczema develop a red, itchy, scaly rash on their nipples and areola. Your areola is part of your breast anatomy. It’s the dark circle of skin around your nipple. Nipple eczema can flare up or get worse every now and then. It may get better or even go away for a few weeks, months or years and then come back. Signs of nipple eczema include:
Usually, providers can diagnose eczema by looking at your skin. Your provider will ask about your symptoms and examine the skin around your nipples. They will also look for signs of eczema on other parts of your body.
Your provider may order:
Two rare types of breast cancer called Paget’s disease of the breast and inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) can have some of the same symptoms as nipple eczema. If your provider suspects these conditions, they may recommend a mammogram or additional tests.
There isn’t a cure for eczema, but treatments can help. Your provider may recommend you:
To prevent an outbreak, you should:
Eczema symptoms usually get better or go away with age. But flare-ups can happen throughout life. You’re more likely to have repeated flare-ups if you:
People who scratch their skin repeatedly are at an increased risk of infection. Long-term scratching can also cause your skin to harden and thicken over time. To avoid these complications, don’t scratch the rash. Talk to your provider about ways to relieve the itching.
If you have a breast rash that doesn’t go away after a few days, see your provider. It’s important to get an examination. Call your provider right away if you have:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Eczema on your nipples can cause extreme discomfort. In severe cases, the itchy rash and dry skin can make it difficult to move, wear clothing or sleep. If you or your child has a rash on or around the nipples, see your provider for an evaluation. It’s important to get a checkup, rule out other conditions and get treatment. Although there isn’t a cure for nipple eczema, treatments can relieve symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/26/2021.
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