Debilitating Nipple Pain - what's wrong with me?
December 19, 2020 1:09 PM   Subscribe

In the last year or so, I've started getting extremely painful nipples, roughly from between ovulation and the first day of my period. My nipples are permanently swollen and erect, day and night. Have you gone through this? Hope me for a solution!

I'm suspecting a hormone issue, but I've gone through 3 doctors already and none agreed to get a hormonal pannel for this. I'm on the waiting list for yet another specialist, but things are taking forever because Covid. I get that a lot of people need more urgent care than this, but it's seriously impacting my quality of life. It hurts when i don't move. It hurts way more when i do anything. I have to wear a bra in bed to be able to fall asleep. It all goes away the day i start my period, and comes back 2 weeks later.

Relevant details:
-The skin of my nipples itself is not damaged or irritated in any way. It's not a rash.
-I'm 100% not pregnant
-I'm 36, not pre(menopausal)
-I'm not on any (hormonal) contraception, I tried that when i was younger and it turned me crazy.
-I have Hashimoto's, taking Levothyroxine, which helps with a lot of symptoms, but not this.
-I eat mostly low-carb/keto, if i eat any sugar/high carbs, the pain is even worse.
-My libido is non existant.
-I'm in Europe, and have to go through the health system available here. Unfortunately we don't have the option of elective blood tests, even if i could pay out of pocket.

I'm at my wit's ends, so if you have gone through this and found a solution, I'm all ears.
posted by PardonMyFrench to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
This is gonna sound weird, but I had a similar issue while breastfeeding & it helped so much... but this seems like it may be circulation-related as well.
Have a nice warm steamy shower, then use a vibrator on your nipples. This may or may not be any fun at all. Maybe just massage for 3 minutes a side each day, and see if that helps eventually? Not your doctor.
posted by nukacherry at 2:37 PM on December 19, 2020

If the vibration hurts rather than helps, it couldn’t really hurts any worse to apply an anti fungal cream for yeast infections, such as Monistat topical cream. Twice daily or as directed on the packaging. Not much risk to trying it & if it works, it will work almost immediately. Relatively inexpensive product
posted by nukacherry at 2:42 PM on December 19, 2020

Pain increasing with sugars sounds like a yeast infection to me. It's actually more common than you think! Gentian violet is the usual treatment. It should be better in 3 to 4 days, with some relief within hours.

Just paint it on your nipples each evening and either wear a loose cotton top or no top. It's very staining, so have a towel to protect your bedding.

If after 4 days it isnt significantly better it's not fungal and you might need antibiotics.
posted by ananci at 2:59 PM on December 19, 2020

I found this, it might be helpful.

And here's some info about evening primrose oil which the first article recommends.

By the way, none of them suggest this is a symptom of cancer.
posted by mareli at 3:01 PM on December 19, 2020

I'm a doctor

between ovulation and the first day of my period

aka the luteal phase, from days 15 to 28 or so of the menstrual cycle

My nipples are permanently swollen and erect,

during the luteal phase, progesterone- and estrogen-mediated hydrodynamic changes (water retention anyone?) througout the body lead to an increase in the water content between the tissues of the breast. More water in the same space = more pressure = hard nipples

It all goes away the day i start my period, and comes back 2 weeks later.

Cyclical breast pain increases throughout the luteal phase. It tends to be diffuse, bilateral, and often extends to the armpits. The pain remits with the onset of menstruation

Which is exactly what you're describing

none agreed to get a hormonal pannel for this

cyclic breast pain requires no special evaluation or diagnostics, and it's symptoms can be treated with anti-inflammatory over-the-counter meds like aspirin, ibuprofen, or parcetemol

You're fine.
posted by BadgerDoctor at 3:15 PM on December 19, 2020 [7 favorites]

You're fine.

Please, BadgerDoctor, do not tell a woman who is suffering a debilitating and painful condition, that she is fine. Tense matters. She may be fine in the future after taking your advice, or not, but to tell her that she is fine now is to dismiss her present suffering. That approach lacks understanding and compassion.
posted by Thella at 3:29 PM on December 19, 2020 [70 favorites]

Point taken. I didn't mean to sound flippant, or to minimize her problems

What I meant to say was that she's healthy, what she's experiencing is completely normal, and she probably doesn't need to worry about anything being wrong medically with her.
posted by BadgerDoctor at 3:55 PM on December 19, 2020 [12 favorites]

Be careful with gentian violet, ananci, it's a carcinogen and banned in some countries.
posted by stray at 4:35 PM on December 19, 2020

I've had odd pains in my breasts and nipples over the past couple of years since menopause. Drinking a glass of plain, unsweetened soy milk daily seems to help. There's 2 net carbs in 8 oz of the brand I get. The kind that comes refrigerated tastes better than the shelf-stable one, but I find either one works.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:00 PM on December 19, 2020

she's healthy, what she's experiencing is completely normal

What she's experiencing is definitely not normal and pain when she isn't even moving that affects her quality of life isn't healthy. OP, I hope you find a doctor that takes you seriously, and I'd like to thank BadgerDoctor for illustrating why so many women don't trust doctors.
posted by Mavri at 6:46 PM on December 19, 2020 [47 favorites]

It sounds like it is related to ovulation, which occurs about 14 days before a period starts.

Here is a good article that addresses the issue:

The article states, "Nipple or breast pain that starts during ovulation typically continues until the start of your period. If nipple discomfort is severe or affecting your daily life, your doctor may recommend birth control pills or other supplemental hormones or hormone blockers. These may help reduce hormone-related symptoms."

I have very close relative who had a similar problem and was prescribed birth control pills to address it. (No blood test required.) Worked like a charm!
posted by SageTrail at 10:36 PM on December 19, 2020

My nipple pain and swelling turned out to be advanced breast cancer. But, it was only ONE nipple, not both, which I think is important.
posted by CancerSucks at 12:36 AM on December 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all, I've just ordered some evening primrose to try.
The pain is very specifically only affecting the nipples, not the rest of my breasts at all.
I'll try massaging as well, maybe after taking an aspirin first.
Ideally i'd like a long-term solution other than "take painkillers daily for half of the month"...

I'm specifically thankful for the answers that recognize that "you're fine, there's nothing medically wrong with you" is indeed not helpful to hear when you're in pain.
That's pretty much what the 3 (male) doctors I've seen so far have implied, sigh.
posted by PardonMyFrench at 10:43 AM on December 20, 2020 [4 favorites]

A friend of mine had a similar issue (hers was general breast pain, though also included just sore nips some months) which also turned out to be related to ovulation. Like SageTrail's relative, she was prescribed birth control and once she stopped ovulating, the cyclical pain went away.

Are the doctors you're seeing GPs? Can you see an OB-GYN who may also be able to advise you on what form of birth control might work for you? Science has come a long way over the last couple of decades when it comes to birth control drugs, and you should be able to find one that you can live with long term.
posted by fight or flight at 4:01 PM on December 20, 2020

Here to chime in saying this happens to me! Not every month, and only twice has it been as bad as you describe it. I have cysts on my ovaries and I have assumed it's causing hormone issues. The internet tells me I must be pregnant, but I never have been. I'm trying to recall when it started happening, but I feel it's been since at least my mid-20's 15 years ago. I can't take birth control either. I do remember when I was on it I had way less symptoms.

If you find any treatments work please let me know!

It sucks and I'm here in solidarity against doctors dismissing your concerns. I had a doctor once snap at me "What do you want me to do??" and leave the room about a chronic pain issue I finally got help for 12 years later. I don't have solutions for that either, but I'll rage in the corner with you.
posted by Dynex at 10:21 PM on December 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

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