Why Do Some People Have Puffy Nipples? An Investigation

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smiling woman in a bra

Puffy nipples are one of those physical features that people seem to either love or hate.

For some people, seeing them is an easy way to get turned on. For others, they’re a strange feature that might even be a mark of embarrassment. (Hint: Don’t be embarrassed. Nipples of all kinds are awesome!)

Regardless, puffy nipples are a pretty common (yes, normal!) trait in both men and women. You might even have them yourself.

If you have nipples that seem to jut out a little extra, you shouldn’t freak out. Noticing a change in the “puff” of your nipples usually just means that you’re built a bit different than what you might be used to seeing on TV or online.

Puffy nipples have a little bit of excess tissue in the areola region. In some cases, nipples can get puffy due to a lack of muscle tone in the chest area as well, but that’s highly unlikely.

They aren’t a sign of something wrong in most cases, but rather, a simple sign that your body is unique — as all of ours are.

RELATED: The Real Reason Some People's Nipples Are So Sensitive

Even though they aren’t necessarily a warning sign of poor health, most people who have puffy nipples tend to wonder what causes them. This is doubly true if you just recently noticed that your nipples have started to get a little bit puffy as of late.

3 Causes Of Puffy Nipples In Men and Women

1. Genetics

Like many body quirks, puffy nipples aren’t always hereditary nor are they always predictable, but they can be, as one of the most common causes of puffy nipples is simply our genetics.

Most people who are genetically predisposed towards having them will start to notice their nipples getting puffier by the time they hit puberty, with some people noticing themselves developing puffy nipples during their teen years.

2. Hormones

Having puffy areolas may also a sign of hormonal changes in both men and women.

Women, for example, tend to get puffy nipples during pregnancy or as a part of their monthly menstrual cycle. If you’re a woman who gets swollen, puffy nipples right before your period, you’re not alone.

Men, on the other hand may have puffy nipples due to lower levels of testosterone in their system.

In fact, many men who suffer from gynecomastia, which is the enlargement of breast tissue in males, often first notice the extra breast growth happening when their nipples get puffier.

Due to the way hormones tend to shift as we age, it’s not unusual to develop puffy nipples during puberty or during a person’s later years.

That being said, most people who have a little puffiness going on will only have it as they transition from one hormonal stage to another.

3. Medications or recreational drug use

As common as hormonal changes are, there are other reasons why someone could develop puffy nipples seemingly out of the blue.

Some medications and recreational drugs can cause puffy nipples as a side effect — including some cardiovascular drugs, antipsychotics, antiandrogens, and antifungal medications.

According to Dr. Douglas Steinbrech, one of New York City’s most well-known plastic surgeons, “Puffy nipples can be caused by multiple reasons. Hormone imbalance during puberty, anabolic steroids, certain medications. Marijuana use can also increase the chance of having puffy nipples.”

4. Certain exercise routines.

Excerise that results in lots of friction between your clothing and your nipples, such as running and other cardio routines, may cause temporary swelling and puffiness that should go away on its own.

5. Excess body fat.

Gaining or carrying extra weight can change the appearance of your breasts, including your nipples.

RELATED: Why Do Nipples Get Hard? The Science Behind The Phenomenon

What surprised me the most about this investigation was learning how many people were embarrassed by them!

There are a multitude of forum posts discussing how embarrassed people are for having puffy nipples and how they are considering getting plastic surgery for it. (And yes, there are plastic surgery procedures that correct the excess tissue found in nipples.)

Even so, if you have puffy nipples, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed about having them.

According to Dr. Steinbrech, around 12% of all men and women have puffy nipples — and trust me, there are plenty of people out there who find them attractive.

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We have enough to worry about in the world without also being self-conscious about what our nipples look like.

But if you want to find out how to reduce the size of your puffy nipples, there are some ways you can lessen their appearance.

How to Get Rid of Puffy Nipples

1. Change your diet and exercise routine.

For men especially, weight gain is a culprit when it comes to what causes puffy nipples. If you're overweight, try changing up your diet to get to a healthy weight.

Along with a healthier diet, exercises that focus on strengthening the chest muscles can drastically change your body's appearance.

2. Get your hormones checked.

If a medical issue is causing your puffy nipples, getting a full workup can help you and your doctor come up with a treatment plan.

Meeting with your doctor also gives you the chance to discuss any current medications that you're on to see if they might have something to do with your nipples' appearance.

3. Plastic surgery.

For some people, plastic surgery is the best option for getting rid of puffy nipples.

"The exact type of surgery varies depending on each patient's unique characteristics," Dr. John Paul Tutela, a celebrity plastic surgeon based in New York and New Jersey, tells YourTango. "If the skin is tight and there is only excess fatty tissue in the chest, liposuction alone might be successful. For this to work, the skin has to have enough snap back to retract against the chest wall. Sometimes more fibrous fatty tissue is present and would need to be excised through a small incision."

Most of the time puffy nipples go away without needing treatment.

However, if you have discharge or any type of pus coming out of your nipples, or if you are in discomfort for a few days, you should see a doctor right away.

RELATED: 15 Reasons You Have Sore Nipples (Or Are Experiencing Breast Pain, In General)

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a health and lifestyle writer based out of Red Bank, New Jersey. You can follow her on Twitter.