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Causes Of Nipple Discharge In Men And Women

October 11th, 2017

Causes Of Nipple Discharge In Men And Women

Causes Of Nipple Discharge In Men And Women

Did you know that unexplained and sudden discharge from the nipple is the third most common reason why women see their primary care professionals for breast related disorders?

According to latest statistics reported by Journal of Cellular Immunotherapy, the two most common breast related conditions that urge women to see the doctor are lump and pain in the breast region. Although discharge from nipple is a common condition that affects both males and females, it does not always indicate an emergency or organic condition.

What Should You Know About Nipple Discharge?

  • Discharge from nipple is a result of excessive nipple secretion
  • Nipple discharge may be unilateral (one nipple) or bilateral (both nipples)
  • The nipple secretion may have varying consistency or colors

Primary Causes Of Nipple Discharge

Several underlying disorders may present with discharge from nipple; some are physiological, others are pathological

Some physiological causes include;

  • Breast feeding: Milky discharge is very common in women who have just started or just stopped breastfeeding. However, some women may experience milky nipple discharge 2-3 years after stopping lactation.
  • Excessive physical stimulation of breasts or nipples
  • Some babies also produce discharge/ secretions due to presence of circulating maternal hormones. In most situations, this condition resolves spontaneously without needing any treatment

Pathological Causes Of Nipple DischargeBreast Cancer Image

  • Formation of abscess (characterized by accumulation of pus in the tissue pockets)
  • History of trauma or injury to the breasts
  • Infectious disorders of breast
  • Some endocrinological disorders
  • Inflammation of periductal glands (also known as mastitis)
  • Some tumors of pituitary gland (prolactinoma)
  • Thickening and widening of milk duct under the nipple (also known as mammary duct ectasia)
  • Fibrocystic disease of breast (characterized by the formation of irregular cysts)
  • Cancers of breast (such as Paget’s disease of mammary glands)
  • Adverse effect of some contraceptives or birth control pills

Intake of some medications can also lead to discharge from nipple; these are, anti-hypertensive medications, antidepressants, sedatives, fenugreek, fennel, antipsychotics, and anise.

What Causes Nipple Discharge In Men?

It is noteworthy that a lot of men also experience nipple discharge, but due to reluctance or shame, most men tend to ignore the symptoms.

Listed below are the most common causes of nipple discharge in men:

  • Hormonal disorders: Deficiency of key male hormones like testosterone often presents with nipple discharge
  • Gynecomastia: Excessive growth of breast tissue in males is regarded as gynecomastia. It is often associated with nipple discharge due to excessive glandular growth
  • Tumors of pituitary glands: Anterior pituitary gland is responsible for secreting hormones that are responsible for milk secretion. Excessive secretion of certain hormones such as prolactin can also lead to discharge from nipple
  • Organic malignancies of breast are also associated with this condition.

It is strongly recommended to see a healthcare professional if you are experiencing discharge from nipple without any obvious explanation.


  • Shahverdi, E. (2017). Diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to nipple discharge. Journal of Cellular Immunotherapy, 3(1), 5-6.
  • Zacharioudakis, K., Kontoulis, T., Zhao, J., Cunningham, D., Stewart, V., Al-Mufti, R., … & Shousha, S. (2016). The role of MRI in the evaluation and management of patients with pathologic nipple discharge. European Journal of Surgical Oncology, 42(5), S53.

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