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Pimples occur when sebum, an oily substance, clogs up your sebaceous glands. They can occur almost everywhere on your body, and the area immediately surrounding your areolae — the darker-colored areas around your nipples — is not exempt. If you have pimples on your breasts, you are also extremely likely to have them elsewhere on the body already. It is very uncommon to have pimples on your breasts, but none on your face, back, or shoulders.

Women who do have genuine pimples on their breasts should increase their daily hygiene routine by washing the area with a gentle cleanser twice a day. As with pimples on other parts of the body, squeezing isn’t advised — more so because the skin around your nipples is very sensitive.

Pimples on your breasts are nothing to worry about, but before you start your new cleansing routine and forget about your pimples, we should discuss some other possible causes of pimple-like bumps on the breasts, on the areolae, and even on the nipples. Not everything that looks like a pimple is one.

Montgomery’s Tubercles

When someone says they have “pimples on their nipples” (often in fact referring to the areola), my first thought is Montgomery’s Tubercles. The glands of Montgomery, also called the areolar glands, are sebaceous glands in the areolae. They serve to keep the nipples protected and hydrated, particularly during breastfeeding. When these areolar glands become visible, they are called Montgomery’s Tubercles and they look very much like pimples — but on the areola and sometimes the nipple itself, rather than the area surrounding the areola.

Montgomery’s tubercles are associated with the early stages of pregnancy, but they can become visible when you are not pregnant as well. Hormonal imbalances and stress are prime causes of visible Montgomery’s tubercles in non-pregnant women.

Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Hidradenitis suppurativa is an acne-like skin condition that can lead to severe boil-like cysts and lumps that usually occur on the buttocks, around the groin, in the armpits, and yes, on and around the breasts. When these lumps become infected, they can ooze pus and become very painful. Antibiotics are required to clear this condition up.

A Yeast Infection

Another possible cause of red, pimple-like bumps on and around the nipples is a yeast infection. Candida, also called thrush, is a common infection in breastfeeding mothers, but it can also strike those who aren’t breastfeeding, particularly following a course of antibiotics. Swollen, red and flaky areolae with blisters that can be confused for pimples are symptoms in this case. Antifungal creams will clear a yeast infection right up.

Subareolar Breast Abscesses

A subareolar breast abscess is a pus-filled lump underneath the skin of the areola. Unlike yeast infections and Montgomery’s tubercles, these often occur in non-lactating women, particularly those who have nipple piercings. Not only do these lumps look quite a bit like pimples, they can also ooze pus. You will require antibiotics and may have the abscess drained if this is your diagnosis. In some cases, surgery is recommended.

What Should You Do If You Have 'Pimples' On Your Breasts?

Women with pimple-like structures on their areolae are advised to see their primary healthcare provider, not least to rule out a rare but aggressive form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer. Pimple-like lumps can, rarely, be a symptom of this form of breast cancer, along with redness, discoloration, swelling, and an orange-peel appearance. Don't panic yet, because this is very rare. It's much more likely that a trip to your doctor will reassure you, and/or leave you with a prescription for antibiotics or antifungals. 

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