We’ve run several articles in the past on the subject of nipples and Raynaud’s. They aren’t generally included when talking about Raynaud’s affecting the body’s extremities, but nipples can experience Raynaud’s spasms, particularly during breastfeeding.
Because the literature and knowledge within the medical community are limited on the subject, we were glad to find a recent article published on LiveScience titled “This Blood Vessel Disease Can Cause Nipple Pain, Interfere with Breast-Feeding.”
The article discusses a study on the subject and quotes Dr. Katherine Sampene, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and senior author of the report stating, “If we can help women to be successful in [breast-feeding], we can improve the health of moms and babies.”
The study, Raynaud’s Phenomenon of the Nipple, an Under-recognized Condition, is published in the May issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology. It discusses two cases: The first is a 32-year old woman whose nipples were turning purple and reported pain when pumping breast milk. The doctors witnessed her nipples experiencing an Raynaud’s attack during her examination, but saw the discoloration of deep purple nearly disappear once she replaced her examination gown and was no longer exposed. The process allowed them to associate the woman’s symptoms with Raynaud’s. Based on the diagnosis, they recommended keeping her breasts warm while pumping milk, and it did help reduce her symptoms.
The second case involved a pregnant patient experiencing discoloration, along with severe pain in her nipples. She reported originally having similar symptoms when nursing her first child, then they went away, but returned during her recent pregnancy. This is a similar pattern we’ve heard from women several times, and it suggests a hormonal connection to Raynaud’s, although no specific correlation has been clinically proven. Some women tell us they never had Raynaud’s until they delivered their first child. Others say their Raynaud’s disappeared when they became pregnant. It’s not a consistent pattern, but there appears to be some connection. Based on the patient’s symptoms, the doctors changed her blood pressure medication to a calcium channel blocker (the family of drugs clinically proven to help Raynaud’s sufferers). Afterwards the patient reported quick relief of her symptoms and was able to breastfeed without pain.
The study concludes with the statement: “A careful history and physical must be obtained in women presenting with breast pain, because diagnosis and treatment allows breastfeeding continuation and mitigation of symptoms.”
Below are links to earlier articles we’ve published on the subject:
Article on Raynaud’s Affecting the Nipples
Breastfeeding Issues for Raynaud’s Sufferers
Help for Pregnant & Breastfeeding Moms