Q: My breast has been scratching me, what could be the cause?
A: There are many different causes of breast/nipple itch and they include:
- Eczema that is usually found to run in families with a history of allergies. Preventive/control measures include using mild soap to take a bath, followed by a mild moisturizer. Also do not use water that is too hot for a bath as this dries out your skin and makes the itching from eczema worse. Use warm water if you must and then dab your skin leaving some moisture. Lock in this moisture with a moisturizer. Stress is also a trigger for this and so reducing your stress levels and exercising may be helping in more ways than one. Anti-histamines (helpful with itching) and over the counter steroid creams are also useful. For severe cases, please see your doctor for a prescription of more potent steroids, immuno suppressant drugs, ultra violet light therapy etc.
- Friction: In this case, not wearing a bra or wearing a poorly fitted bra during exercise routines may lead to rubbing of the skin of the breast/nipples against the fabric and consequent itching and/or pain.
- Sensitivity to the weather (hot or cold), certain fabrics, detergents or even creams/lotions may lead to breast/nipple itch and pain. If specific detergents or creams cause this, you may have to change them.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding can also lead to this condition. In pregnancy, the pregnancy hormones lead to the nipples being extra sensitive and during breastfeeding, the baby may not latch on well to the nipple, there could be blocked ducts or mastitis or breast abscess etc leading to pain. During pregnancy, be sure to choose bras made with fabric that can ‘breath’ like cotton. And during breastfeeding, be sure to get help with making sure you know how to put baby to the breast to prevent sore nipples etc.
- Cancer (Paget’s disease of the breast) can also be a cause of nipple itch with eczema-like symptoms on the nipple and/or surrounding areola.
- Underneath the breasts is also a usual place for rashes to form especially in overweight or busty people. This would usually occur when tight clothing or fabrics that do not allow your skin to ‘breathe’ trap moisture (sweat) between the skin folds. Thus, constantly wearing polyester fabrics etc may lead to accumulation of this moisture which is a rich culture medium for fungal and other organisms to thrive.
So, where in doubt…especially if you have tried to rule out the causes above, please see your doctor.
All the best!