Nipple discharge is one of the most common reasons why a woman is likely to visit a doctor in connection with her breasts in her lifetime. And while most of these cases will involve women understandably, men can also have the condition. Because the breast in men is somewhat rudimentary, it often spells trouble when a male breast is discharging for any reason. There are various types of nipple discharge and each one usually represents some specific kind of condition and we shall be examining some of these associations very shortly.
Furthermore, it commonly would result from a rise in the level of the milk-producing hormone known as prolactin. As this hormone rises in value, so it suppresses ovulation. Many of these women are therefore initially diagnosed with the condition in the course of being investigated for infertility.
The other type of nipple discharge often seen is the bloody discharge and that often causes alarm. It may be caused by a non-cancerous condition known as a papilloma. This is a growth that can irritate the tissue within a breast duct and cause some bleeding to result. More rarely, a bloody nipple discharge is associated with cancer of the breast.
The third most common type of nipple discharge is the clear type of discharge which is often of little significance if both nipples are involved but comes into sharp focus if this discharge is seen only from one side. Frequently, the one-sided discharge is seen in association with breast cancer. It needs to be followed up with seriousness and should be taken to a doctor for examination as early as possible.
Finally is the greenish kind of discharge which is often symptomatic of a cyst just underneath the nipple or the areola that it drains. Each one of these different types of discharge can be alarming. The bloody type of discharge and the clear one are the ones most frequently associated with breast cancer. However, all of them are not always the cause for the kind of concern often attributed to them. Any level of concern should however be taken to a hospital for the sort of examination and expert opinion necessary to rest the matter in a timely and useful manner. That step is necessary to help determine what the cause of a particular discharge is so that the appropriate treatment can be administered. That usually helps resolve the problem.
A nipple discharge will occur when the nipples secrete some kind of fluid. Several underlying conditions understandably make such discharge possible and each type is often a variety of consistencies and colours. Sometimes, such characteristics make it possible to isolate possible causes before a confirmatory test is done.
Other causes of nipple discharge are as follows;
(1) A breast abscess.
(2)A hormonal disorder as described in paragraph 2 above.
(3)Other breast infections like cellulitis or mastitis.
(4) Excessive nipple stimulation.
(5) Mammary duct ectasia, when the milk duct under the nipple becomes thick and widens abnormally.
6) Injury to the breast as experienced in any form of trauma.
7) Fibrocystic breast disease.
8) Paget’s disease of the breast, which is a rare form of breast cancer affecting the nipple and areola.
9) Periductal mastitis which is an inflammatory reaction around the milk ducts.
10) It can be a side-effect of the use of birth-control pills. Other medications that can cause similar nipple discharge are blood pressure medications, sedatives, anti-psychotics and anti-depressants. The use of prohibited drugs such as cocaine and marijuana can also cause nipple discharge.
In men, nipple discharge is much less common but it can nevertheless occur due to a variety of conditions. The most common cause is the reduction in the circulating blood level of the male hormone, testosterone. This is also seen in a condition called gynaecomastia, a condition in which there is breast enlargement and tenderness. Similarly, a pituitary tumour can cause this condition to result. The pituitary gland located at the base of the brain is the master gland which is responsible for producing the hormones that cause the production of milk in the nipples. When the gland is enlarged, prolactin production rises and the level of milk production similarly goes up. Breast cancer in men is also associated with the production of various types of nipple discharge. Because of these associations, therefore, any kind of nipple discharge in a man should be taken to a doctor because none of them is usual or expected to happen.
In babies, nipple discharge is sometimes seen too. This is usually because of the presence of hormones from the mother circulating in the baby’s blood. This anomaly often resolves without treatment within several days.
Whenever a woman experiences any type of nipple discharge, it is advisable that she pays a visit to her doctor. This is particularly so if the discharge is associated with any of the following features that are also seen in breast cancer. These features include a change in the size or the shape of the breast; a discharge from only one breast; a discharge stained with blood; a swelling under the armpit on the same side as the breast; discharge from only one breast and any breast discharge that continues over several days. In many parts of Nigeria, these features are a dream situation because the patients seldom present early in the hospital. Very often, the history of the nipple discharge goes back several months. When the cause of the discharge is a potentially devastating condition, lots of useful time would have been lost at the time she eventually arrives in hospital.
It sounds like a routine thing for anyone who has experienced something like we have itemised above to seek interpretation from an expert when they have it. Many look upon the situation as unimportant and therefore easily treated. That is often not the case. It would seem therefore, that a nipple discharge may be a minor event in a chain of circumstances. Many times, its effects are major and the consequences frequently unpleasant.