What to do about discharge from nipple piercing?

Originally Published: May 4, 2001 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: May 21, 2004
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Alice,

About a year and a half ago, i got both of my nipples pierced. Not thinking about my allergies to surgical steel posts in my ears, i got my nipples pierced with surgical steel rings, which i assume are standard. My nipples never healed correctly, so i removed the rings, and have gone without them for over a year now. In my right nipple, i have a thick white discharge coming out of where the ring was removed. Any idea of what this discharge may be, and if i should worry about it?

Afraid of doctors in Houston, TX

Dear Afraid of doctors in Houston, TX,

High-tail it to your nearest health care provider right away. Thick white discharge coming from the site of a wound is often a sign of a serious infection. It's your body's way of saying, "Seek medical attention now!"

However, based on your signature, you don't sound eager to rush to a doctor's office. You're not alone with how you feel. Many people are anxious about talking with clinicians, especially when the situation involves "private parts" and/or circumstances that are not so traditional. Your provider's likely seen a lot though, and while it may be embarrassing and/or nerve-wracking, your health and well-being are high priorities. It's important not to delay or pass up a visit in order to prevent the infection from getting worse. Over the computer, it's impossible to diagnose exactly what's going on with your nipple. An in-person consultation with a health care provider will ensure that you receive proper treatment.

Remember, finding practitioners that you feel comfortable with can be similar to finding the right pair of shoes, or even more so, like making friends. It's okay to "shop around," ask questions, and see someone new if the first person isn't a good fit. For many people, the search for a convenient, knowledgeable provider who understands their circumstances is easier now that the choice of providers has expanded. Many health care facilities offer patients a chance to see a Physician Assistant (PA) or Nurse Practitioner (NP) in addition to the more traditional Physician (MD). PAs and NPs are also skilled health care professionals — available to offer services in a compassionate and competent manner that's sensitive to their patients' needs, too — whose schedules and availability are usually more flexible (which means less waiting for an appointment), and who some folks may find less intimidating than doctors.

Alice encourages you to make that appointment pronto with the provider of your choice to make sure your nipple is A-OK.

Get well soon,

Alice