How Long Does Nipple Fissure Last?

Medically Reviewed on 11/4/2021
nipple fissure
Superficial nipple fissures may heal within a few hours to a day, while deeper fissures can take two to three weeks to completely heal.

Nipple fissures, also called cracked nipples or chapped nipples, cause inflammation, burning, and pain around the areola.

Nipple fissures commonly occur among breastfeeding women, causing such intense pain and discomfort that some mothers stop nursing. These fissures are also seen among athletes, surfers, and cyclists, which are called joggers' nipples.

The healing period of nipple fissures depends on the conditions and extent of the fissure. Sometimes, sore nipples heal within a few hours to a day; however, they may take up to two to three weeks to completely heal if the fissure is deep or if the healing is affected due to the following factors:

  • Nursing techniques:
    • Breastfeeding women may have delayed healing of cracked nipples due to complications such as:
      • improper latching by the newborn,
      • improper breastfeeding technique,
      • hormonal changes after pregnancy,
      • poor posture while feeding,
      • tongue-tie in the baby, and
      • abnormal sugar levels.
    • Sometimes, the nipple cracks are due to fungal infection and these take longer to heal.
  • Friction:
    • Friction-causing nipple fissure is usually seen among people who are athletes.
    • Excess friction to the nipple area happens due to constant rubbing of the nipples with the fabric worn by the athletes while running, causing nipple fissures.
    • Even surfers and bodyboarders may have nipple fissures because their nipples get rubbed against boards, paddles, and seawater.
    • Poorly fitted bras and loose shirts can also cause friction and lead to cracks on the nipples.
  • Allergies:
    • The skin may be allergic to certain chemicals, and when it comes in contact with such allergens, nipple fissures may occur as an allergic response.
    • Once the cause of the allergy is known, avoid those allergens, which may include:
      • Perfume
      • Skin lotion or moisturizer
      • Shower gel
      • Shampoo or conditioner
      • Laundry detergent
      • Fabric softener
    • The skin allergy and nipple fissure may be treated by a dermatologist.

6 home remedies to heal a nipple fissure

Home remedies for nipple fissure include:

  1. Hot and cold compresses
    • Warm or cold compress (with ice cubes) after breastfeeding may soothe soreness caused by the nipple fissure.
    • It is necessary to clean and pat dry following every session of compressions. Then, moisturize the nipples.
  2. Antibacterial oil
    • Nursing mothers are advised to apply oils that have antibacterial properties, such as tea tree, peppermint, and olive oil on the nipples. They relieve soreness of the nipples, act as a lubricant, and promote healing.
  3. Vitamin C
    • Vitamin C may help prevent nipple fissures, so it is recommended to eat foods, such as leafy vegetables, parsley, broccoli, bell peppers, oranges, kiwi, and others that contain more vitamin C.
  4. Lanolin ointment
    • Lanolin ointment is specially formulated for nursing mothers and application of this ointment may help heal wounds.
    • This ointment is applied after each session of breastfeeding, and it is not necessary to clean it before breastfeeding.
  5. Nursing pads
    • Nursing pads are used to keep the nipples dry. It is essential to replace the damp nursing pads with fresh, dry ones because moist pads delay healing.
    • It is recommended to use cotton nursing pads and avoid the ones with plastic because they may obstruct airflow.
  6. Prevent friction
    • Nipple fissures are commonly seen in people who are athletes. They can prevent the occurrence of nipple fissures if they:
      • Stop wearing clothes made of rough materials
      • Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothes
      • Always wear a supportive bra made of soft material
      • Apply balm or topical, waterproof ointment before physical activity
      • Cover nipples with band-aids on nipple cover before physical activity

What are the complications of nipple fissures?

Untreated nipple fissures may progress to lactational mastitis or breast inflammation. Mastitis may further lead to the formation of breast abscess, which requires surgical incision and drainage.

Nipple fissures can be treated at home by applying emollient ointments and antibiotic gels. A person should seek immediate medical attention if they notice any of the following:

  • Infection and discharge from the nipple
  • Pain, redness, and tenderness in the area
  • Fever
  • Feeling hardness on touching
  • When home remedies failed to heal

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Medically Reviewed on 11/4/2021
References
Image Source: Wikipedia

American Pregnancy Association. Nipple Pain Remedies. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/breastfeeding/nipple-pain-remedies/

La Leche League International. Breastfeeding with Sore Nipples. https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/breastfeeding-sore-nipples/

Medela AG. Sore nipples. https://www.medela.in/breastfeeding-professionals/education/lactation-period/sore-nipples