A third nipple can develop on an individual’s body irrespective of gender, but it is more common in men. The good news: doctors say there is no need to worry about this condition and cosmetic corrections can be made to remove it.
According to doctors, the human anatomy begins in the womb and the development of the milk line takes place during the fourth week of pregnancy.
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“The third nipple can get developed anywhere along the vertical milk lines,” says Dr Sudhanva Hemant Kumar, consultant plastic and cosmetic surgeon, Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai. “The vertical milk lines are areas on a person’s body along which the breast develops during the formation of an embryo.
“The milk line starts from the armpit and passes through the breast and nipple areas and goes down to the groin. About 5% of the third nipples, also known as supernumerary nipples, are formed in places such as the neck, back, thigh or vulva, which are outside the milk lines.”
He says the third nipple can also grow in places that you cannot see in the body, and it will appear smaller than the normal areola (the pigmented circular area around the nipple).
How to identify the third nipple?
When the third nipple is not completely formed, it is often mistaken for a mole. “It can be easily identified if it occurs in the milk line,” says Dr Paritosh Baghel, a Mumbai-based internal medicine specialist. “It might be difficult if it develops on the other parts of the body where you cannot see completely. There can be a single [nipple] or multiple [nipples], and [they] may not be raised above the skin’s surface. During puberty, hair may grow over it.”
Should you worry about the third nipple?
Dr Baghel says there is no specific concern among men or women if a supernumerary nipple is found.
“The concerns of having a third nipple are cosmetic in nature,” says Dr Kumar. “Occasionally there can be swelling and pain during menstruation in females and when they lactate. Otherwise, it may just remain like a mole, with no additional complications over time.”
Removing the third nipple
Dr Kumar adds that the third nipple can be removed for cosmetic or functional reasons through a simple surgery. “There are no side-effects of having it removed surgically,” he says. “It is usually a daycare procedure performed under local anesthesia,” he says.
Third nipples or supernumerary nipples are more often seen among males. They might look like a mole or just an areola. Supernumerary nipples are formed in places such as the neck, back, thigh or vulva. They do not have any health complications and can be removed for cosmetic reasons through simple surgery.