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Quick Facts

Nipple Discharge

By The Manual's Editorial Staff, ,

What is nipple discharge?

Nipple discharge is fluid that leaks from one or both of your nipples.

  • The discharge can be cloudy, whitish, bloody, or almost clear fluid

  • Nipple discharge is sometimes normal—for example, at the end of pregnancy or when breastfeeding

  • Nipple discharge is never normal in boys and men

What causes nipple discharge?

The most common causes of nipple discharge are:

  • A benign tumor in your milk duct (these tumors aren't cancer)

  • Milk ducts that have gotten bigger, thicker, and filled with fluid

  • Fibrocystic changes (a condition that includes breast pain, breast cysts, and other breast lumps that aren’t cancer)

  • A breast infection that contains pus

Less common causes of nipple discharge are:

Prolactin is a hormone that tells your body to make breast milk after you have a baby. However, prolactin can be produced by certain health problems, such as thyroid or liver disorders and certain medicines.

When should I go to a doctor for nipple discharge?

Go to a doctor within 1 to 2 days if you have nipple discharge and signs of infection:

  • Redness

  • Swelling

  • Discharge of pus

Go to a doctor within a week or so if you have nipple discharge and:

  • It happens on its own—when your nipple isn’t squeezed

  • You’re age 40 or older

  • It’s only from one breast

  • The discharge is bloody or pink

  • You have a lump you can feel in your breast

  • You're male

What will happen at my doctor visit?

Doctors will ask you questions about your symptoms and health. They’ll do an exam, including a breast exam.

To find out what's causing your nipple discharge, doctors may do other tests, such as:

  • Blood tests to see your hormone levels

  • Look at a sample of your discharge under a microscope

  • Ultrasound (a test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the insides of your body) of your breast

  • Mammogram (x-ray of your breast to screen for cancer)

How do doctors treat nipple discharge?

Doctors will treat the cause of your nipple discharge.

If you have a noncancerous tumor causing nipple discharge from one breast, doctors may remove the milk duct from that breast.