The tiny bumps you see around your nipples are called Montgomery tubercles. And guess what? You don’t need to worry about them because they are completely normal. These tubercles help keep your breasts moist, protect them from germs, and play a part in breastfeeding. Around 9% of females have these tubercles, and the number of bumps can be different for everyone. Some people might have just a few, while others could have a bunch. Want to learn more about Montgomery’s tubercles? Find out what they look like, why they appear, what to do if they get infected, and whether you should remove them.
What Are Montgomery Tubercles?
If you skip washing your hair for a few days, you might notice it getting greasy. That is because of the work done by sebaceous glands, also known as oil glands. These oil glands, or sebaceous glands, are found all over your body, including in the dark circular skin areas around your nipples called areolas. The ones on your areolas have a special name: Montgomery tubercles, named after a doctor named William Fetherstone Montgomery. Similar to the oil glands on your scalp and the rest of your body, Montgomery tubercles produce a kind of lubrication. This helps keep your areolas from drying out. These tubercles offer several benefits, such as:
- Helping infants breastfeed: They emit a scent that attracts babies to the nipples.
- Keeping breast milk germ-free: They act as a barrier against germs.
- Preventing nipple issues: They help avoid problems like cracked or chapped nipples.
- Protecting against infection: The lubrication they provide helps keep the skin on your areolas healthy.
What Do Montgomery’s Tubercles Look Like?
Have you ever felt so scared or chilled that you got goosebumps on your arms? Well, Montgomery tubercles can look a lot like those bumps. Typically, Montgomery tubercles are small, measuring about one to two millimeters. They can be the same color as your areola or appear red, white, or yellow. Additionally, there might be more of these bumps on one breast compared to the other in some cases.
What Causes Montgomery’s Tubercles?
Montgomery’s tubercles may become more prominent under certain conditions or during certain phases of life. Montgomery’s tubercles can show up for various reasons, including:
- Arousal of the nipple
- Changes in body weight
- Changes in hormones
- Cold temperatures
- Tight-fitting clothes
However, in general, you will often find Montgomery tubercles during pregnancy, breastfeeding, puberty, and specific phases of the menstrual cycle.
Montgomery Tubercles and Pregnancy
Early signs of pregnancy often involve changes to your breasts and nipples, even before missing your period. Typically, breasts may swell, become larger than usual, and feel tender. Some people may also notice Montgomery tubercles, small bumps near the nipples. However, not everyone experiences these tubercles, and their presence alone does not confirm pregnancy. If you observe Montgomery’s tubercles and other early pregnancy symptoms, such as morning sickness, fatigue, or spotting, consider taking an at-home pregnancy test or consulting a doctor for confirmation. Breast changes, including tubercles, can be indicative of early pregnancy, and a positive test result should prompt a visit to your doctor for further confirmation. As your pregnancy progresses, you may observe more tubercles on your nipples, preparing your body for breastfeeding. Darkening and enlargement of the nipples are normal occurrences later in pregnancy and should not cause concern.
Puberty and the Menstrual Cycle
Hormonal changes during puberty and the menstrual cycle can also lead to the appearance of Montgomery’s tubercles near the nipples. The levels of estrogen in your body rise during puberty, ovulation, and pre-menstruation. This increase in estrogen promotes the growth of Montgomery’s tubercles.
Montgomery Tubercles and Breastfeeding
During pregnancy and lactation, Montgomery’s tubercles play an important role in facilitating smooth breastfeeding. These tubercles, which enlarge during this period, produce more oil to lubricate the areolas as the breasts undergo enlargement. This lubrication serves multiple purposes, such as preventing bacteria from entering the breast milk and causing infection in the infant. Additionally, the natural oils act as a protective barrier, preventing the nipples from becoming cracked or chapped.
It is recommended for breastfeeding mothers to avoid washing their breasts with soap, as soap can contribute to drying out the nipples. Instead, rinsing the breasts with water during daily showers is advisable. The antibacterial oil secreted by Montgomery’s tubercles emits a scent that attracts infants to the nipple, aiding in the breastfeeding process. Studies have shown that the secretions from lactating females enhance the breastfeeding response in infants, intensifying the suckling response and slightly increasing the baby’s heart rate and breathing. To further protect against drying or cracking, applying a few drops of healing lanolin is suggested. It is important to steer clear of non-breathable plastic lining in bra pads or nursing bras to ensure optimal breast health during breastfeeding.
Signs of Infection
Wanting to pop Montgomery tubercles, like stubborn pimples, for a quick fix? Be cautious—popping them can lead to infections. Risk factors for infection include diabetes, pierced nipples, and smoking. Tubercles may clog or become inflamed if you touch them, use specific creams, or wear tight clothing.
Signs of infection: feeling unwell, fever, chills, itching, drainage, bleeding, or pus from a lump, and a swollen, tender lump near the nipples. Infections are treated with antibiotics. In severe cases, the infected area may be opened and drained at a healthcare provider’s office, using topical medicine to numb the area. If the infection recurs, surgical removal of the infected gland may be necessary. Stay vigilant and seek medical attention for any concerns.
Symptoms To Watch Out For
Rarely, Montgomery tubercle infections may signal breast cancer, especially if you notice drainage, bleeding, or pus. Talk to a healthcare provider if you have signs of infection and other potential breast cancer indicators, such as:
- Changes in one or both breasts, including nipple shape changes
- Discharge from nipples unrelated to breastfeeding
- Hard lumps on your breasts
- Skin resembling an orange peel, known as “dimpling”
- Swollen lymph nodes near your armpits
- Unexplained weight loss
Prompt consultation with a healthcare professional is important for proper evaluation and diagnosis.
What Is a Montgomery Cyst?
Clogged Montgomery tubercles can sometimes result in the formation of Montgomery cysts, a phenomenon typically observed in adolescents. While these cysts are generally uncommon, they are typically painless and tend to resolve on their own. However, if a Montgomery cyst becomes infected, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare provider. In such cases, healthcare providers may opt to drain the cyst using a needle and syringe to effectively eliminate the infection. Seeking professional medical advice is crucial for the proper management of Montgomery cysts and any associated complications.
Should I Remove Montgomery Tubercles?
Montgomery’s tubercles are generally normal and indicate that your breasts are functioning properly. They typically shrink or disappear on their own after pregnancy and breastfeeding. If you are not pregnant or breastfeeding and wish to remove the tubercles for cosmetic reasons, your doctor may suggest surgery. This option might be considered if the tubercles cause pain or inflammation. The surgical removal process involves your doctor excising the bumps around your areola. It is an outpatient procedure lasting about 30 minutes, usually without the need for hospitalization. Expect some scarring after the surgery. Collaborate with your doctor to decide if this option aligns with your needs and preferences.
Home Remedies For Removal
If you are looking to naturally reduce the size of Montgomery’s tubercles at home and you are not pregnant or breastfeeding, there are a few remedies you can try. One approach is to apply a warm compress by pressing a towel soaked in warm water on your nipples for approximately 20 minutes each night. Additionally, you may consider using natural topical solutions such as aloe vera gel, shea butter, or cocoa butter around your nipples. Making adjustments to your lifestyle can also play a role – increasing water intake, reducing sugar consumption, and maintaining a healthy diet with minimized sugar and salt. These measures aim to create conditions that may help prevent the enlargement of tubercles. Keep in mind that while these home remedies may offer relief, if you have persistent concerns or the condition persists, consulting with a healthcare provider is advisable.
Do’s and don’ts
In most cases, there is usually no special action required if you notice Montgomery’s tubercles. To maintain the area free from infection and inflammation:
Keep it Clean:
- During pregnancy and breastfeeding, wash your breasts daily with warm water. If you’re not breastfeeding, a mild cleanser is generally safe for daily use.
Avoid Oils and Lubricants:
- Refrain from using oils and other lubricants on the tubercles.
Don’t Attempt to Pop:
- Avoid attempting to pop the tubercles, as it can be risky.
Wear Comfortable Bras:
- Wear a comfortable, clean bra daily.
If the presence of tubercles is bothersome, especially when you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding, consider discussing potential options for surgical removal with your doctor. However, it’s essential to be aware that this may impact your ability to breastfeed in the future. Always consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice and guidance.
Montgomery tubercles, small bumps around the nipples, are entirely normal and commonly observed during pregnancy, breastfeeding, puberty, and throughout the menstrual cycle. While these tubercles typically do not cause discomfort, any pain may signal a potential infection, warranting consultation with a healthcare provider. Montgomery tubercles can develop for various reasons, and their presence is a normal aspect of the physiological changes that occur in the breasts during different life stages. If you experience any unusual symptoms or concerns related to Montgomery tubercles, seeking professional medical advice is recommended for proper evaluation and guidance.