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What Causes a Nipple Blister?

If a baby doesn't latch properly during breastfeeding, it can lead to a nipple blister.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2014
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There are a few common causes of nipple blisters. They include friction on a woman's nipple when a baby doesn't latch on properly during breastfeeding or when a mother uses a breast pump or nipple shield in an incorrect manner. Sometimes blisters also develop because skin grows over a milk duct or due to a milk duct that is blocked from the inside. Yeast infections can cause these problems as well. Treatment for nipple blisters depend on what type they are — home remedies often work, but a doctor's care may prove necessary for more complicated cases.

One of the most common causes of nipple blisters is a problem with the way a baby latches onto his mother's nipple when breastfeeding. When the position of the nipple in a nursing baby's mouth is problematic, he may still get a suitable amount of milk, but the latching problem may leave the mother with sore nipples. Besides the pain she might feel during and after breastfeeding, the mother may also notice that her nipples become cracked and possibly even bleed a little. At this point, a blister or two might form.

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Often, a nipple blister that develops because of incorrect latching is referred to as a blood blister. They are often red or brown in coloring and typically develop because of the friction caused by breastfeeding challenges. Sometimes, however, a woman will also develop this type of blister because she is using a breast pump but fails to position it properly. Even incorrectly positioned nipple shields can cause issues in some cases.

Another type of nipple blister that involves breastfeeding is called a milk blister. This sometimes develops when a milk duct becomes blocked by skin that grows over it, and as a result, the milk cannot exit the nipple from this duct and the blocked area begins to blister. The nipple blister is often whitish in color, though it can be yellow or flesh colored as well, and it often is possible to see fluid beneath the skin. Other milk blisters may result from a blockage not outside the milk duct but within it. A whitish blister can form in the affected area because of milk drying up in the blocked duct, for instance.

Sometimes an infection can also cause a nipple blister. For example, if a person has a yeast infection of the nipples, this can sometimes result in sores and blisters in the affected area. The other symptoms of a yeast infection that affect this part of the body include soreness and itching in the area as well as redness and sometimes burning or shooting pain.

The treatment for a nipple blister usually depends on what caused it to develop. Often, improving the way a nursing baby latches on and taking more care with using nipple shields or breast pumps helps. Some people also find that exposing the sores to air helps them heal faster. Hot compresses and gentle exfoliation may help with milk blisters, or a doctor might use a needle to free the obstruction. Oral and topical antifungal medications usually help when the problem develops because of a yeast infection.

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