Disclaimer: This is a heavily women-centric article as it concerns nipple eczema.
I hate wearing bras. It's not because I have some grand feminist agenda. I just find bras to be uncomfortable and constricting.
In my opinion, bras serve three purposes: to provide support, to look good naked, and to cover up erect nipples. I'm pretty much a "function over design" person, so bras, while they can be nice and pretty, are just not that functional for me. For one thing, I don't have big breasts that need "support." And because I'm always fixated on how uncomfortable my bra is, I don't feel sexy wearing one. As for "covering up," I'll go over that in a few paragraphs.
So what does any of this have to do with eczema?
Bras pose a new challenge for women (and men too, if they like wearing them!) who often get nipple eczema. Nipples are one of the most tender parts of the body. To have eczema on such a sensitive area means the rash will probably be weepy, crusty, and sometimes very painful. The constant brushing of the bra against that part of the skin hinders the recovery process.
And who wants to ruin a nice bra by either putting topical steroids or emollients on their nipples or have weepy discharge coming out of the rash? So one might end up buying a cheap bra and save the nice one for later, but of course, cheap ones are not as nice as the fancy Victoria's Secret ones and that starts another set of problems.
The solution I came up with is bandaging my nipples if I get a severe eczema. Rectangular bandages about the size of 1 3/4 in. wide usually does the trick. The flexible fabric kind works the best for me. For women daring to go braless, just bandaging them will be enough to cover up the erect nipples and stay modest!
When to go see a dermatologist concerning nipple eczema
People with chronic eczema usually become experts in at-home care, but there are very important occasions where consulting a doctor would be beneficial.
1. Breastfeeding mothers
I have no personal experience in breastfeeding, but my guess is that any mother would be concerned about having rashy nipples while attempting to breastfeed their newborns. According to Dr. Lisa Amir in "Eczema of the Nipple and Breast: A Case Report" in 1993, "Potent topical steroids are safe for short-term treatment ... careful use of steroid preparations for 10 days should not present a danger to the infant ... A mild steroid (hydrocortisone) may be applied if symptoms return."
But since the thought of putting on steroids while breastfeeding is unsettling, it is best to consult a dermatologist.
2. If the rash persists
Paget's Disease of the nipple is a rare form of breast cancer and on the surface, has the same symptoms of nipple eczema: crusty, scaling rash with the sensation of burning and itchiness. It usually occurs on just one nipple, so if the rash on just one nipple persists, it is best to get a thorough exam for the peace of mind. I usually time it with my annual gynecology exam.
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