Nipple Discharge

Nipple discharge is the third most common breast concern reported by patients. Up to 80 percent of women will experience nipple discharge at some point in their lives. It is generally the result of benign processes. Nipple discharge that is green, gray or yellowish is not worrisome. Milky discharge can be associated with pregnancy or breastfeeding, and sometimes persists. If nipple discharge is spontaneous, persistent, emanates from one duct, and is clear, bloody or a mixture of bloody and clear fluid, further evaluation with exam and breast imaging is recommended.

Some causes of nipple discharge include:

  • Overstimulation of breast tissue
  • Certain medications
  • Benign growths or clogged ducts in the breast

Evaluation can include:

  • Thorough history review and clinical breast exam
  • Mammogram and/or breast ultrasound to look for the underlying cause
  • Symptom management
  • Consultation with a specialist such as a breast surgeon or endocrinologist


Follow-up care is determined by you and your provider depending on your particular situation.

Treatment of Nipple Discharge

Nipple discharge often does not require any imaging or treatment. It can resolve on its own. You can help by avoiding squeezing or stimulating the breast or nipple. You may also be asked to change medications.

If you notice changes in your nipples or breasts, it's best to see your provider, as the problem can require treatment. If you have discharge that is of ongoing concern, surgical removal of the duct can be recommended.

Questions About Nipple Discharge?

If you have questions about this topic, or would like more information, please talk with your health-care provider.

Virginia Mason's Breast Clinic, with locations in Seattle and Federal Way, is easily reached toll-free at (877) 433-9813. We make it a priority to answer your call promptly and to schedule you for the most appropriate exam.