Itchin’ and scratchin’ is normal from time to time, but if it’s more than just a spare tickle, the itchiness can be super aggravating. Especially when it’s, you know, on your boobs. It’s not exactly easy to reach into your shirt to satisfy an itch in an office meeting, and when the itching is persistent, it can signal one of several reasons for itchy breasts.
But what can cause itchy breasts and, more importantly, how can you make it stop? Woman's Day spoke to a dermatologist and women’s health expert to figure it out.
But first, know that this list isn’t a substitute for medical attention and it could be worth checking in with your doctor. “Itchiness that persists [and] doesn't go away with treatment or progresses into a rash or skin changes should be enough to seek medical attention,” Jennifer Wider, MD, women’s health expert and author tells Woman’s Day.
You may have eczema.
If you’ve got an itchy, red rash around your breasts (and even on other parts of your skin), it could be eczema. “It’s generally caused by the skin’s inability to hold onto moisture and to the good bacteria that help protect it from irritants,” Gretchen Frieling, MD, a board-certified dermatopathologist in the Boston area, tells Woman’s Day.
About one in 10 people will have some form of eczema during their life, according to the National Eczema Association, although it’s most common in children. Dr. Frieling says that stress, rough materials on the skin, feeling too hot or too cold, sun, pet dander, and laundry detergent can all be triggers.
Your skin might be dry.
Your skin may just be naturally dry, but if you’ve recently started using new skincare products or routines — especially harsh ones — that may be a cause.
“The solution is simple: keep the area moisturized,” Dr. Frieling says. Regular old body moisturizer is fine for breasts. If your boobs are on the larger side, make sure the underside is dry before you put on a bra, or you might end up with chafing.
You aren’t washing your bra enough.
“Any dirty clothes, including bras, often have bacteria that can irritate and infect the skin,” Dr. Frieling says. Chests tend to especially collect sweat. Dr. Frieling says regular bras should be washed weekly, and sports bras should be washed after every time you work out.
Even if you are washing your bra often, you could be having a reaction to your bra’s fabric. “Synthetic fabrics are the biggest culprit of itchy breast and polyester and latex and really irritating,” Dr. Frieling says. Instead, she recommends a natural material like cotton.
You could have a yeast infection
“Most women associate yeast infections with the vagina,” Dr. Frieling says. But you can get them under your breasts, too, because moisture gets trapped and that’s where yeast thrives—and breasts get itchy. Treatment is as simple as an anti-yeast medication.
You may have a thyroid disorder.
According to the Mayo Clinic, women with under-active thyroids are more likely to have dry skin, and as we mentioned before, dry skin is itchy skin. The solution, beyond speaking with your doctor about thyroid treatments, is to keep skin moisturized.
Your breasts are growing.
During puberty or pregnancy, the skin of the breasts can stretch enough that the tightness causes itching. “Women can use moisturizers, topical creams and gels to alleviate the itchiness,” Dr. Wider says. She also mentioned that sweat can exacerbate itching in this scenario, so try to dry yourself off after a workout.
You're taking a medication that causes it.
“Several common medications including high blood pressure meds, anti-depressants, pain killers, and even estrogen can cause itchy breasts,” Dr. Wider says. These can be a bit trickier to figure out, so expect that your doctor will have a few questions to ask you so they can rule medications out accordingly.
In the meantime, or if it’s not possible to avoid or replace the medication, you can work with your doctor on treating the symptoms with lotions, she adds.
You’re allergic to your detergent
Just like anywhere else on your skin, breasts can be affected by an allergic reaction. For example, if you just switched to a new detergent, that could cause an itchy rash on your chest. “Treating the underlying allergy with an anti-histamine is usually enough to stop the itch,” Dr. Wider says.
It could be a very rare breast cancer
“Itchiness and a rash can be an early sign of a rare breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer,” Dr. Wider says. Only 1 to 5% of all breast cancers are inflammatory breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“The breast usually goes from itchy to red, swollen and warm and the skin may dimple or look pitted like the peel of an orange,” Dr. Wider explains. If you notice these along with your itching, talk to your doctor so you can get a full screening.
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