Bloody discharge from nipple

I have an unusual problem that I can't seem to find information on. I seem to have some bleeding from one of my breasts. My nipples are very sore and burn and sometimes I have sharp pains in my breasts. My daughter is three months old and when we started nursing I was sore. The soreness went away and has now returned for the last two weeks or so. Is this a symptom of tissue damage or maybe thrush?? I have an appointment with my OB/GYN but I was wondering what you think.

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

It can really be frightening to discover blood in your milk or bleeding from your nipple. Bloody discharge from the breast in a lactating woman is usually due to breast trauma or engorgement. Are you using a new breastpump, or using continuous or high suction? Another common cause is intraductal papilloma. It is a small (usually less than one cm.), benign growth on the lining of a milk duct, typically in one of the main lactiferous ducts beneath the areola. It may cause pain. Fibrocystic breast changes can also cause bleeding. During lactation, as at any other time in a woman's life, you need to seek prompt evaluation of worrisome breast changes:

  • If you have a lump or thickening in or near your breast, or in the underarm area
  • If you notice a change in the size or shape of your breast
  • If you discover an unusual discharge from your nipple
  • If there is a change in the color or feel of the skin of your breast, areola, or nipple (dimpling, puckering, or scaliness)

Sometimes a nursing mother's milk appears to be bloody. This is often referred to as "rusty-pipe syndrome". It is not very common, and is seen more often in first time moms as breastfeeding is becoming established. It will usually go away on its own within a week or two. If this condition persists, it also needs to be properly evaluated.

According to Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book (1995), cancer is rarely the cause of nipple discharge. It is still extremely important to have any spontaneous discharge from your breast (discharge that occurs on its own without stimulation) promptly evaluated by a breast surgeon. Diagnostic studies may be necessary. Cellular examination of the discharge may be performed to rule out the possibility of malignancy. Best wishes for good health!

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