Women’s breasts begin to develop from adolescence. They are frequently exposed to changes, both in shape and size, which may involve the areola of the nipple.
The areolas of the nipples are part of the breasts: they are located in the front and middle part of the breast, and these can undergo certain modifications at certain stages of life. The appearance of changes in the size and shape of the areolas is a cause for concern for many women. In this FastlyHealarticle, you will learn why the areola of the nipple enlarges, its causes, and how to deal with it.
Table of Contents
Nipple areola size
The areola is the dark-colored skin that surrounds the nipple. It is located in the breast center: it measures approximately 2.5 millimeters in diameter. In the center of it is the nipple, whose fundamental function is exercised during breastfeeding.
Areolas can have many shapes, sizes, and colors that vary from woman to woman and depending on the vital stage in which she is. The range of colors of the areola varies from the lightest pink to dark brown, depending on the skin color of each woman.
The most common in a woman is that the size of the areola is three times the size of the nipple. In many cases, the areola size is not directly related to the size of the breast. Next, we indicate the different sizes of possible areolas:
- Small areola: 1 to 2 cm in diameter.
- Medium to normal areola: between 2 to 4 cm in diameter.
- Large areola: 4 to 6 cm.
- Giant areola: can measure more than 6 cm.
As we have mentioned, the size of the areola can be modified during various vital stages or due to other specific causes of each woman. Size variations are known as macrophilia, microtia, and anesthesia can occur in this sense.
Macrothelia occurs when the areola-nipple complex is large relative to the breast. This can be congenital or occur after pregnancy or lactation.
It is a small areola concerning the breast. This may be related to disorders of the upper limb.
This variation in size produces an asymmetry between the areolas of the breasts. In other words, there is a size inequality between the two areolas of the woman. It is important to remember that the total symmetry of the areolas does not exist and that anesthesia is something natural since one breast has developed before the other.
If you want to know more about anesthesia, you can consult our article Why do I have one breast more prominent than the other.
Why is the areola enlarged?
An enlarged nipple-areola is one of the most common changes in a woman’s breasts. The transformations in the areolas are often due to hormonal changes in the body during the different stages of a woman’s life.
Some of the vital stages that cause nipple-areola enlargement are:
In this stage, the growth of the breast occurs. Puberty coincides with breast development, and the areola must expand to keep the breast area hydrated and protected. Changes that occur during adolescence concerning the size or shape of the areola are expected at this stage.
During each menstrual cycle, women’s breasts undergo various changes. After ovulation, the breasts can become swollen and tender, while the areola of the nipple does not necessarily tend to change in size.
In this stage that some women go through, the areolas become more extensive and darker before the baby is born. This is due to the tremendous hormonal changes the body is subjected to during pregnancy.
While breastfeeding, the hormonal changes of pregnancy are maintained, and the increase in size of the areola and its pigmentation. This change in the areola is beneficial, as it helps attract the newborn to the breast so that it can feed.
Other causes that increase nipple areola
In addition to the common causes present in the vital stages of women, the size of the nipple-areola can be modified for other less frequent reasons such as:
This alteration can occur in the lower and lateral parts of one or both breasts, specifically in its development. It grows, feels prey, and does not expand; it tends to herniate, causing the breast to have a tube shape. In these breasts, the areola is large and dilated.
If you want to know more about this alteration, you can consult Tuberous breasts: degrees, operation, and postoperative.
In cases of breast hypertrophy, as huge breasts are known, they have a large areola due to stretching and sagging of the skin.
Causes of the inflamed areola
Other symptoms, such as inflammation, can also accompany changes in the size of the nipple-areola. If you notice swollen areola, here are some possible causes of swollen areola that are important to know: ectasia of the breast ducts and Paget’s breast disease.
Ectasia of the mammary ducts
Ectasia of the breast ducts is one of the causes of the inflamed areola. This occurs when the milk duct widens and becomes blocked as it fills with fluid due to a thick substance. This disorder often has no symptoms, but some women may feel the areola swollen.
Here are symptoms that may appear due to ectasia of the mammary ducts:
- The inflamed or swollen areola.
- Tenderness in the nipple or the tissue around the breast.
- White, gray, or black nipple discharge.
- Breast nodule near the duct.
- Redness of the nipple.
- Sunken (inverted) nipple.
Breast duct ectasia can affect premenopausal women between 45 and 55 years old and occur later. Ectasia usually improves without treatment. However, the symptoms can be bothersome and persist over time: in that case, antibiotics or, to a greater degree, surgery to remove the affected milk duct would be necessary.
Ectasia of the mammary ducts is not a risk factor for breast cancer.
Paget’s disease of the breast
Another cause of inflamed areola can be Paget’s disease of the breast. This type of breast cancer affects the nipple and areola explicitly. It is a reddish patch with irregular edges, usually under or near the nipple, measuring between 3 and 15 cm.
Paget’s breast disease affects a low percentage of women with breast cancer: it occurs in 1 in 8 women. Like all types of cancer, it is crucial to detect it and go to the doctor to diagnose it early. Some of the symptoms of this type of breast cancer are:
- Tingling in the areola or nipple.
- Peeling or thickened skin at the site.
- Flattened nipple.
- Yellowish or bloody nipple discharge.
See Paget’s Disease of the Breast: Symptoms and Treatment for complete information.
It is important to remember that to identify the exact cause of your inflamed areola, and you must go to your trusted doctor, who will guide you through a correct diagnosis.
Can the nipple-areola be reduced?
Having a large areola should not cause concern, as this size is standard for many women. The areola’s shape, size, and color are particular characteristics of each woman, and no areola is the same as another. However, some want to reduce them for cosmetic reasons.
The doctors indicated to perform this nipple areola reduction procedure are plastic surgeons or mastologists: they will guide you according to the size of your areola with the technique that suits you best. It is an outpatient surgical procedure that does not require hospitalization and can be performed with an incision at the level of the areola to reduce its size.
However, it is essential to know that surgical areola reduction can decrease nipple sensitivity and affect breastfeeding ability.
If you are thinking about reducing the size of the nipple-areola, go to your trusted doctor, who will advise you first-hand what to do in your situation.
This article is merely informative. At FastlyHeal .com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any condition or discomfort.
If you want to read more articles similar to Why is the nipple-areola enlarged, we recommend that you enter our category of Female reproductive system.
I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.