Menu

What Is an Extra Nipple?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum on June 23, 2021

An extra nipple means just what it sounds like: You have a third or additional nipples on your body. Experts also call this supernumerary nipples, in the case where they occur in multiples. Other names are ectopic nipples, accessory nipples, vestigial nipples, or triple nipples.

It’s relatively common, found in between 1% and 5% of the population, and it’s harmless. Many people with an extra nipple may not realize that they have it.

Why Does an Extra Nipple Appear?

An extra nipple forms during development in the womb. Anyone can be born with one or more. The odds of developing one later in life is very low.

You may not notice the presence of a third nipple, and you might think it is a birthmark or mole. They mainly occur along the milk lines where breast tissue potentially appears, anywhere above the armpits to the groin. Extra nipples appear alone in most cases.

When a third nipple appears alone, the condition is called polythelia. The supernumerary nipples are without accessory glandular tissue. In the case where an extra nipple is connected to the breast tissue or glands, experts call it polymastia.

Types of Supernumerary Nipples

Extra nipples fall into six main categories:

  • Category 1: The third nipple and areola (the area of pigmented skin around a nipple) appear with some underlying breast tissue.
  • Category 2: The third nipple lacks an areola but has underlying breast tissue.
  • Category 3: In this condition, there is breast tissue and an areola, but a nipple is missing.
  • Category 4: There is breast tissue but no areola or nipple.
  • Category 5: A nipple and areola are present but in the place of breast tissue is fatty tissue.
  • Category 6: Only a nipple is present without an areola or underlying breast tissue.

You may have multiple extra nipples in some cases, with all of them being different from each other.

Is It an Extra Nipple?

You can quickly tell when you have a third nipple. It has an appearance like that of the two nipples on your chest. You may feel an ache around the location of the nipple. Hormonal changes in the menstruation cycle can bring that on.

If you're unsure if you have third nipple, a doctor can tell you if it's an extra nipple or something else. During the examination, the doctor will also check for any abnormalities in it.

Another reason to visit the doctor is if the nipple hardens, has lumps, or causes any discomfort. A rash over the area of the third nipple is also a reason to seek medical attention. Make regular appointments with your doctor to check for any unusual activity signs or abnormal growth around the nipple.

In rare cases, an ectopic nipple can be a sign of an underlying issue. It could be a sign of a congenital breast defect or a tumor.

Experts link some types of extra nipples like category six to certain kidney conditions. These include cancer of the kidney cells and end-stage renal disease. Take note of any changes in the third nipple, no matter how small, and tell your doctor about them.

How to Treat Extra Nipples

Ectopic nipples rarely cause or signal any health problems. Removing them is usually for cosmetic purposes, and only rarely for medical reasons.

If the nipple has an underlying health issue that needs medical attention, the doctor may advise you to have surgery. They'll also prescribe medications to treat the condition. The removal process is an outpatient surgery. It is quick and almost painless. Cosmetic removal of a third nipple is usually more expensive.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Journal of Diseases of Children (1960): “Does a supernumerary nipple/renal field defect exist?”

Bland K., Howard J., Romrell L., Chapter 9-Congenital and Acquired Disturbances of Breast Development and Growth, Elsevier, 2010.

Dermatology Online Journal: “Supernumerary nipple and seminoma: Case report and review of polythelia and genitourinary cancers.”

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center: “Supernumerary nipple.”

Gland Surgery: “Anatomy of the nipple and breast ducts.”

News Medical Life Science: “Supernumerary Nipples- third Nipple.”

Radiopaedia: “Supernumerary nipples.”

Science: “Sample records for supernumerary breast case.”

Seminars in Plastic Surgery: “Development of the Human Breast.”

Southern Medical Journal: “Ectopic breast tissue, supernumerary breast, and supernumerary nipples.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.