Hard Nipples: 12 Major Reasons for Hard, Erect or Perky Nipples Plus Solutions

Reasons For Hard Nipples
13 min reading time

Hard nipples can be embarrassing and worrisome, especially if it happens too frequently. If you or a loved one has noticed a recent change in the sensitivity or appearance of your nipples, this may be a surprise. 

Hardening of the nipples is not something to cause undue concern. Nevertheless, it’s also an indication that there might be a concern. There are several different causes for it.

So how do you know if your erect nipples should be a cause for worry or not?

Here we will look at twenty reasons why the tips of your nipples might be hard, as well as some solutions to this problem.

Are Hard Nipples Normal?

Hard, erect nipples are a natural part of the reproductive cycle. In most cases, they are normal and nothing to worry about. However, in rare cases, they can signify a serious health problem, such as hormonal imbalances or tumours.

Perky nipples are normal in men and women. Both men and women have breasts, but the nipples are usually more noticeable in women.

There are too many factors involved to give a single clear-cut answer as to why it is happening. However, below are some reasons why you keep having this nipples.

Are Hard Nipples Normal?

12 Reasons For Hard Nipples

1. Pregnancy

Harder nipples during pregnancy are a natural effect of the hormones created during pregnancy. The hormone responsible for this cause is called prolactin. During pregnancy, the body produces more prolactin which in turn stimulates the creation of breast milk. As a result, your nipples will also become darker in colour and stay harder most of the time due to the production of this hormone.

2. Allergies or sensitivity

It is possible, and perfectly normal, for a healthy, well-nourished infant to develop painful hard nipples. This is because of your body’s sensitivity to allergens in the same way that some people get an itchy rash on the skin. It can occur when one comes into contact with certain plant pollen or fabric fibres.

The most common cause of painful, itchy and swollen nipples is a breast infection (mastitis).

Allergies or sensitivity can cause various reactions on the nipple asides from hardness. Most common are redness, pain, brown spots, soreness, discharge and blisters.

3. Breast abscess

A purulent breast abscess is an uncommon breast complication that is most commonly due to mastitis. A swelling occurs inside the breast. It is usually painful and accompanied by redness and sometimes fever. An infection causes breast abscesses in the breast. The most common cause is a cracked nipple. This can be caused by improper latching during breastfeeding or using a dummy or bottle when not necessary. 

4. Breastfeeding 

Some breastfeeding moms have hard nipples. It’s okay to have hard nipples when breastfeeding. Furthermore, it is normal for it to happen, especially when you’re in the early weeks and getting used to it. If you’re worried, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant. They’ll reassure you that it’s fine and happens to lots of women.

5. Perimenopause and Menopause 

The most common and noticeable symptom of perimenopause and early menopause is the presence of hard nipples. A hard nipple is, for many women, a signifier of impending menopause. In some women, changes to the nipples are noticeable before any other symptoms of menopause. So, it’s entirely normal for women going through menopause to experience this. 

6. Ovulation 

During ovulation, your nipples may harden slightly. Here, the estrogen levels are rising, which increases blood flow to the breast tissue. This softens and enlarges the milk-producing glands in preparation for pregnancy.

7. Sexual arousal

When one is sexually excited, it is normal for the Nipples to harden. This happens as a result of the signals sent to the brain as well as the sensitivity of that region.

8. Menstrual cycle 

During the menstrual cycle, research shows that there is a huge drop in estrogen and progesterone production in the ovaries. This causes the pituitary gland to produce Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). These changes can cause several symptoms like breast pain and even occasional nipple retraction.

9. Birth control pills 

Some women taking birth control pills complain about painful, stiff, or tight nipples. It is not clear why some people get this side effect, and others do not. Some women develop hardened and/or tender nipples within a day or two after beginning the pill. They may even experience pain and soreness for weeks until the skin returns to normal.

10. Nipple piercing

Nipple piercing and other large gauge piercings can cause an increased risk of developing hard swellings or hard lumps. They can also cause hard lumps to develop if they were pre-existing. It is debatable whether nipple piercings pose a greater risk than other piercings. However, there is good reason to think they do. So, piercing professionals should be aware of the signs to look out for and be prepared to take action.

11. Cold weather 

The nipples will harden if the breast tissue is sensitive to cold and there is some sort of contact or friction on the area. Nipples that harden in cold weather usually indicate an allergy to wool, lanolin or nickel.

12. Breast cancer 

Nipple hardness can be an indicator of Breast cancer. It is a sign of inflammation and raises the concern for metastasis. When women have breast cancer, they often get hard or painful lumps in their breasts. In about half of these cases, the lumps are in their nipples. Sometimes when a woman has a mammogram at her doctor’s office, she can see a lump in her breast that had not been felt before. Often these are just harmless fatty tissue or fibrous tissue that has become harder because of contact with some cancer cells under the skin.

What To Do About Them

Nipples can be made hard by many factors, including arousal, coldness, fear, stress, breastfeeding, and medications. However, it may also be largely unrelated to stimuli, as seen above. 

Nipple hardness isn’t always caused by breast cancer. Many of these problems don’t mean anything is wrong with your breasts at all. Also, many of the rarer nipple symptoms can be treated or cured, and they’re more common than you might think.

Additionally, Bumps on the nipples are probably the most common form of lumps found in women. It is usually normal for many women and need not be worried about in most cases. Nevertheless, in few cases, it might mean you need medical attention.

Normal Nipple Symptoms You Don’t Have To Worry About 

One way to tell if there’s a problem with your breasts is to monitor for symptoms. Many women check when they’re in the shower or when they get in bed at night. You can learn what normal nipple symptoms are by paying attention during these situations.

Listed below are the different types of nipple symptoms that are not a cause for concern. Some women have many of these symptoms in menstruation or pregnancy, while others have none, or only one or two.

  • Balanitis
  • Painful or itchy nipples
  • Unusual discharge or bloody nipples
  • Outbreaks of red, itchy lumps under the nipple.

Note: If pregnant or breastfeeding, it could be pregnancy-related mastitis. If below 20, it could be due to early puberty, although other causes should still be investigated. Suspect cancer if there’s a sudden change in appearance and persistent soreness or itchiness.

Women should monitor their breasts for any changes in shape, skin, dimpling or other changes in contour. Normal breast abnormalities can include lumps, tenderness, redness, nipple discharge or other changes. Most of the time, these are caused by hormonal fluctuation or benign breast disease.

Painful Or Hard Nipples In Men

As with women, painful or hard nipples can be a warning sign of breast cancer. Lumpiness in the breast tissue is also a warning sign, both for women and men. Any changes in the firmness or shape of enlarged or tender breasts should be checked by your doctor to rule out cancer.

Other causes of painful or hard nipples in m’en includes;

  • Cysts

Cysts are fluid filled sacs that form in your breasts. It can be caused by many reasons. They generally fall into one of the following categories; 


2) Non-enzymatic

3) Infection

4) Trauma. 

Cysts are not considered cancerous growths but you should consult with your doctor if it causes specific symptoms like swelling, redness or pain in the area.

  • Dry skin

When you have dry skin, it will appear flaky or scaly. In the winter months, anyone who has been outside knows how it can dry out your skin. Your lips, nose, and even groin area can feel the effects of the cold winds and whipping frosts. When it comes to nipples, men suffer from dry skin as well.

  • Infection in the breast tissue

Infection in the breast tissue is a rare occurrence. When this happens, the infection is known as mastitis. Mastitis is a medical condition that occurs when breast tissue becomes inflamed as a result of an infection. The most common cause for mastitis is blocked or clogged milk ducts. The infection can be caused by bacteria or fungus, but the symptoms are similar regardless of the cause.

Possible solutions include;

  1. Try a medicated nipple cream to soothe and moisturize the skin.
  2. Examine your diet to make sure you aren’t lacking in calcium or vitamin D, both necessary for healthy breast tissue.
  3. Wearing a shirt too tight or with a rough weave can cause chafing and soreness.

At What Point Should You See A Doctor?

Itching, tingling, burning, or stinging are often clues pointing to an underlying health problem. If you notice one of these symptoms, even briefly,  seek medical help for your breasts.

Any sudden change in breast appearance or nipple sensation, especially in one breast only, could be the first sign of breast cancer. This is because the tumour that forms bengins laying down new kinds of cells called hyperplastic or metaplastic. They trigger the nipple to harden and develop a different appearance.

Have your doctor evaluate the symptoms and examine you, especially if you have other signs or symptoms of breast cancer. A mammogram should not be performed on a woman with continuously erect nipples and no additional symptoms.

As a general rule, you should see your doctor when something seems wrong. The best way to tell what’s normal for you is to look back over your health records.

Home Remedies 

Most women get embarrassed from wearing tight clothes when they often get hard Nipples. However, you should not be ashamed and be absolutely positive about your body. Wearing a bra can also help with the problem.

This problem can also be really painful for a nursing baby. Those who have been there know how much it hurts when a baby tries to latch. It can even discourage you from breastfeeding. Before your baby arrives, you may want to prepare so that the baby feeds well the first day you put her on the breast.

These home remedies can help you get relief from your nipple pain.

  • Cold teabag compress

Cold teabag compress

Soak a tea bag in cold water, wring it out and place it on the sore area.

  • Warm compress

Warm compress

A warm compress can help to soften the skin around the nipple and make it easier for your baby to latch on. Lying down, take off your bra and apply gentle heat to the area. Using a clean, hot washcloth or heating pad would do. Wait for ten minutes before you breastfeed.

  • Cold compress

To relieve cracked nipples, apply a cold compress to the nipples after each feeding. The compress should be chilled in the refrigerator or freezer for a few hours before use. A bag of frozen peas makes a good compress because the peas conform well to the breast and nipple. 

  • Apply Moisturizer

If you are suffering from painful nipples because of breastfeeding, the first thing you should do is apply an ample amount of natural moisturizer to them. This is particularly true if you are still in the early stages of breastfeeding. Moisturizer will help to moisten your skin. It will also help to toughen it up and make it less prone to cracking. Spread the moisturizer over the entire area surrounding the nipple, as well as directly on it.

Final Takeaway 

In order to understand your body changes, it’s best to know if your nipple has additional changes with the hardness.

Be well informed, so you don’t worry about normal nipple symptoms. Always ensure the following; 

  • Have a good relationship with your doctor so you can communicate comfortably about concerns. 
  • Realize that there are many causes of hard nipples and pain in the breast, suddenly occurring, which are entirely benign. 
  • Furthermore, there are causes of erect nipples in the breast, which are serious but rare.
  • You may need to educate yourself to be knowledgeable about self-examination and proper care of your breasts.
  • Finally, there is not always one correct medical opinion on what is ‘normal for a particular woman’s breasts, nipples, mammae or anatomy.


Do Men Also Have Hard Nipples?

Yes, men do have them, but it is more visible for some than others. 

Some men are sensitive to the hormone progesterone. Progesterone is involved in breast development. So, when men are exposed to progesterone, their bodies react by producing more of this hormone. This, in turn, causes their body to develop breasts too. Likewise, this is why men with sensitive nipples tend to have larger breasts than men with insensitive nipples.

Read also: Causes of Puffy Nipples In Men

What causes nipples to be hard and painful?

Nipples can be painful for many reasons. The most common causes of sore or itching nipples are infections, breastfeeding problems, and irritation from breast pads. Painful nipples can also be a symptom of cancer.

What is the white stuff that comes out of the bumps around your nipples?

It is called the Montgomery glands. The Montgomery glands are glandular (milk) glands similar to many others that can be found throughout the body. Normally, they secrete oil that keeps the nipple soft and supple. This oil helps prevent cracking, chapping, thickening, itching, or desensitization of the breast tissue.

What is the normal breast shape?

What is ‘normal’ will always be subjective.

Breasts come in all shapes and sizes. Some women have no breast tissue at all, while their breast size defines their gender for others. Breasts can be of different sizes on the same woman; they can be full of milk or not. Furthermore, they can sag or perk up with exercises. 

Is it normal to have uneven nipples?

Breast asymmetry is the most common physical breast abnormality. It is pretty common to have opposite breasts that are not identical. The right and left breasts will often show significant variation in both size and shape.

Are erect nipples a sign of pregnancy?

It is true that women get erect nipples more frequently when they are pregnant. There are some women who have these nipples all the time, whatever their condition. So it’s not a foolproof test.

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