Human Nipples - Where Humanity is Nourished and its Role
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Human Nipples: Where Humanity is Nourished

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 16 Dec 2014 - 10:54.

Nipples in a human are present both in males and females. However nipples in a male practically serve no purpose except that they too have an areola around the nipple, which unlike in women doesn't change color throughout the life span of a male. Besides, nipples in men are flat and the areola almost a continuation of the skin on the flat chest. Sexual arousal through nipples in men when fondled is not uncommon though encountered rarely.

What follows would deal with nipples in a female. The two nipples in a female, which are the protrusions of the breast, have a specific function to perform – supply milk to the new born. Because of this unique function of female nipples it has been aptly said: “A mother is unique, at whose nipples humanity is nourished and on whose laps civilization is cradled”

Anatomy: In females, just behind the nipple the breast has several lobules where milk is produced. The milk so produced is conveyed to the nipple through milk ducts situated behind the nipple. The ampula, which is formed through widening of the milk duct behind the nipple, stores the milk.The center of the nipple has tiny sieve like holes through which milk flows. The dark area around the nipple is called the areola. The areola in females changes color during early pregnancy acting as a diagnostic criterion of pregnancy.

Role of nipples: 

The nipples in a female have a dualrole. The first role is to initiate sexual arousal. The second and the most important role of the nipples is nourishing a newborn from birth till about six months though this function is extended to the babies for over a year or two in extreme cases. The size and contour of the nipples varies in different females and in the same female at different times like, during pregnancy and sexual interaction. 

Abnormalities:

The two main abnormalities seen in female nipples are:

1. Retraction of nipples in to the breast. (Nippleinversion)

2. Disorders affecting the skin on or around the nipples.

Although these abnormalities are mostly of minor importance and can be successfully treated it is essential to remember that in drawn nipples should always be viewed with great concern unless otherwise confirmed because such an abnormality could be due to breast cancer.

The causes for inversion of nipples in a female could result from:

1. Improper development of breasts during puberty. Though this type of inversion is harmless it could affect breast-feeding during later years.

2. Even in normal breasts inversion of nipples can occur if there is inflammation of the ducts behind the nipple(s) like in a case of mastitis. This occurs commonly in breast-feeding mothers.

3. As age advances the breasts undergo changes in its shape and structure and lead to inversion of nipples.

4. Less commonly inversion of nipples might occur due to breast cancer, which has to be kept in mind.

Cracked nipples are the commonest condition affecting the skin over or around the nipples. This occurs mainly due to improper breastfeeding technique. The baby must have the whole nipple and the areola inside his/her mouth. If this is not observed the nipples invariably crack. Leaving the nipples wet after a feed may cause soreness resulting in cracks.

If the cracking is severe it might cause the mother a stabbing pain, which might lead to inflammation of the breast. Once cracking of nipples occur, the baby might refuse to feed. In such cases accumulation of milk in the breast leads to engorgement of breasts with pain until relieved through squeezing out the milk or through the use of breast pumps.The reason for these two common abnormalities mainly depend on age, genetics, risk factors and most importantly the lifestyle of the woman. 

Prevention of nipple cracking:

Despite these variations one should know how to prevent cracking of nipples. Useful tips are:

1. Avoid use of bottles or pacifiers.

2. Frequent breastfeeding will prevent hunger in the baby and prevent rigorous sucking for milk.

3. Engorged breasts must be emptied either through hand squeezing or breast pumps.

4. Express a little of milk before allowingthe baby to begin sucking.

5. Be relaxed before and after breastfeeding your child. Avoid breastfeeding the child on the nipple, which has more cracks. First use the other breast and then the affected nipple.

6. Avoid synthetic bras and plastic lined pads.

Hygiene: It is importantly to keep the nipples clean and dry.Gentle cleaning of the nipples before and after the feeds is the best precaution to avoid cracks on the nipples.

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.