Itchy Or Scaly Nipples

What Causes Itchy Or Scaly Nipples?

Itchy or scaly nipples can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'troubling' to 'generally fatal'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose itchy or scaly nipples, we could:
  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "itchy or scaly nipples" as a symptom.  Here are three possibilities:
  • Breast Cancer
  • Eczema
  • Male Breast Cancer

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
breast cancer in family members
early puberty onset
single-pore nipple discharge
eczema
multiple swollen axillary nodes
history of breast cancer
late birth of first child
breast cancer
history of birth control pill use
breast cancer in mother
chronic non-cyclical breast pain
short-term low-carb dieting
... and more than 10 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of itchy or scaly nipples:
Cause Probability Status
Breast Cancer 91% Confirm
Eczema 21% Unlikely
Male Breast Cancer 1% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate having nipple problems, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
Are your nipples itchy or scaly (with flaky skin)?
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ No
→ Yes, slightly
→ Yes, severely
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate either not having itchy/scaly nipples or itchy/scaly nipples, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Breast Cancer
Very rarely, eczema of a nipple can signal a cancerous growth beneath.  This is uncommon, but is a good reason to see your doctor if you have eczema on only one nipple.  It occurs mainly in middle-aged or elderly women.  It is not usually itchy, but there may be a pricking or burning feeling.
Eczema
Itchy, scaly and cracked nipples are a sign of eczema.  The itching can make this an embarrassing condition.  It occurs mainly in women in their late teens, and usually affects both nipples.  It may be only on the nipple, or may affect the flatter area surrounding the nipple (the areola).  Scabies should also be ruled out.
Male Breast Cancer
A special kind of breast cancer, Paget's disease, may appear as a rash or irritation of the nipple.

Related Questions

Skin Conditions