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Nipple Discharge

Nipple Discharge
Fact Checked

Nipple discharge is any spontaneous fluid flow from the nipple at any time other than breastfeeding. This article will focus only on nipple discharge that is not related to breastfeeding.Nipple discharge may appear as clear, milky white, yellow, green, brown or bloody in color. Consistency may range from thin and watery to thick and sticky.It can be caused by a variety of disorders, but in some cases, it is normal and not an object for concern. When it is the latter, nipple discharge is ordinary and will resolve on its own.

Regardless of normality, nipple discharge should still be evaluated by a doctor for proper diagnosis. Nipple discharge is fairly common in women who have given birth at least once before or in older women. It may also occur in men and would usually require an immediate visit to the doctor.In some cases, babies may have nipple discharge that is called as “witch’s milk.” Witch’s milk occurs as a result of hormones from the mother before birth that will typically disappear in two weeks.

Normal vs. Abnormal Nipple Discharge

In some cases, nipple discharge is normal. It may be difficult to decidewhether nipple discharge is considered normal or abnormal. The following may help identify whether to raise concern over nipple discharge:

  • Normal discharge
    • Discharge from both breasts
    • Discharged upon compression or squeezing
  • Abnormal discharge
    • Bloody discharge
    • Discharge from only one breast
    • Spontaneous discharge

Causes of Nipple Discharge

Nipple discharge is rarely a symptom for breast cancer, although it is necessary to determine the underlying cause for proper treatment. Some of the common causes of nipple discharge include:

  • Normal discharge
    • Pregnancy, which can occur in both during the early stages and late stages
    • Ceasing breastfeeding
    • Nipple stimulation from rubbing the area from a bra or t-shirt
    • Certain medications such as birth control pills, etc.
    • Certain herbs such as anise and fennel
    • Widening of milk ducts
  • Abnormal discharge
    • Fibrocystic breast changes
    • Mastitis (nipple infection)
    • Galactorrhea
    • Mammary duct ectasia (inflammation and clogging of breast ducts)
    • Intraductal papilloma  (small growth in the breast)
    • Non-cancerous brain tumours
    • Breast injury
    • Severe hypothyroidism

Treatment for Nipple Discharge

Treatment will be dependent on the cause of nipple discharge. The following are some of the recommended treatments, depending on the underlying condition:

  • Removal of lumps
  • Removal of some or all of the breast ducts
  • Apply topical creams around the nipple
  • Certain medications to treat health condition or change in medications that may be causing the discharge

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice or treatment. The information given should not be used for self-diagnosis of the possible underlying medical conditions. Seek medical attention when necessary. To learn more about nipple discharge and abnormal occurrences in the body, enrol in First Aid Courses with Red Cross training.


Nipple Discharge (2011). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved September 25, 2013, from

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