Eczema of the nipple occurs when an itchy, scaly, irritated rash develops in the areola (area of dark skin surrounding the nipple). It can occur on one or both nipples. Usually it is caused by irritation from certain articles of clothing, soaps, laundry detergents, or lotions. Nipple eczema often gets better once you identify and remove the cause. Choosing hypoallergenic soaps and detergents free of perfumes and dyes often helps. You may need a short course of topical steroids to treat the eczema.
If you have redness or soreness around the nipple that looks like eczema and doesn’t go away with treatment, you and your doctor also should rule out another uncommon type of breast cancer, Paget’s disease of the nipple. Paget’s disease typically presents as redness, soreness, and flaking that affects the nipple and can easily be mistaken for eczema or infection.