What is nipple discharge?
Nipple discharge refers to fluid of varying consistency that seeps out of the nipple of the breast. Discharge in a woman who is not pregnant or breast-feeding isn't necessarily abnormal, and could in fact be your nipple’s natural reaction to pressure. However, discharge that occurs without squeezing the nipple, in only one breast or that contains blood could be a sign of infection or something more serious. Women who experience any of these symptoms should see a doctor right away. Discharge in a man under any circumstances could be an indication of a serious medical issue and needs further evaluation immediately.
What are the common causes of nipple discharge?
While discharge is a normal part of breast function during pregnancy, breast-feeding, or stimulation, abnormal discharge could indicate any number of conditions, including:
- Mammary duct ectasia (a condition where the ducts are dilated)
- Intraductal papilloma (noncancerous growths in the ducts of the breast)
How is nipple discharge diagnosed?
Diagnosis of nipple discharge often includes determining the underlying condition that is causing the problem. This may include one or more of the following tests:
- Laboratory analysis of the discharge
- Blood tests
- Mammogram and/or ultrasound of one or both breasts
- Brain scan
- Surgical excision and analysis of one or more ducts in the nipple