Many women are satisfied with their size and shape of their breasts but are unhappy with the look of their areola. The areola is the darker circle of flesh surrounding the nipple of the breast. Some women feel they have abnormally large areola or that they are too puffy. Some may have experienced changes due to weight loss, pregnancy and nursing, or significant weight loss. Aging can also cause the areola to stretch.
Although oriented toward women, male areola reduction is gaining popularity. The male nipple is obviously not functional. But some men think that their areola is too wide, looks out of proportion, or is too “feminine-looking”.
No matter the cause or gender, breast areola reduction surgery is usually a simple procedure. The surgeon will remove the excess areola tissue, thereby enhancing the cosmetic appearance of the breast. Areola reduction surgery is also performed often in conjunction with other cosmetic breast procedures.
About areola reduction surgery
Areola reduction is accomplished by removing some of the pigmented tissue. This can be done with an incision around the exterior of the areola or around the nipple itself.
The surgeon will attempt to reduce the diameter of the areola using the smallest of incisions. Incisions are typically made in two concentric circles around the edges of the areola. This “doughnut” of tissue and skin is removed leaving the nipple attached to its blood supply and the milk ducts. The incision is sutured around the areola and pulled in to tighten the skin. This does leave a fine line scar where the areola meets the skin. However, if the areola is very large, the surgeon will make an incision that resembles a lollipop – it goes around the areola and in a vertical line down from the nipple. This may cause additional scarring.
Some surgeons may elect to use permanent sutures and others dissolving sutures to minimize any potential scars. If regular sutures are used, you can expect to experience some pain and discomfort when they are removed, as the nipple/areola area is usually quite sensitive.
Areola reduction surgery usually takes one to two hours to complete. It is generally performed in a surgical center or outpatient center using local anesthesia, although you may require general anesthesia. You will be able to return to your normal activities within 24 to 48 hours. You can expect the long-term healing process to take quite a bit longer.
Most patients who undergo areola reduction surgery have no long-term effects and recover quickly. Despite the potential for visible scarring, the majority of patients seem to be very pleased after areola reduction because they finally have a solution to something that has bothered them for a long time. The procedure improves their body image and self-esteem and makes them feel “normal”.
Are there risks with areola reduction?
This procedure is suitable patients who are in good health and have no wound-healing disorders.
All surgeries have risks and areola reduction is no exception. You may experience effects from the anesthesia. The incisions may become infected, or there may be redness or itching. Occasionally, a hematoma (broken blood vessel) occurs. You may also experience strange sensations such as burning, coldness or prickling, but these are temporary. Some patients may notice a difference in symmetry from one areola to the other. Rarely, there may be tissue death or permanent numbness.
Areola reduction does not usually affect breastfeeding.
Be sure to discuss potential scarring with your surgeon in advance, particularly if you have a history of keloid scars (excess scar tissue that protrudes above the skin). If you happen to experience a loss of pigmentation because of a scar, there are procedures available to remedy this situation such as areola tattooing, which adds pigment to the lighter areas to blend them.
Areola Reduction Surgery Cost
The cost of areola reduction ranges from $2,000 to $3,500 when performed on its own. This estimate does not include operating room fees or anesthesia. You may be able to save money if your surgeon has his own surgical suite. The need for a hospital operating room will increase your cost. Also, it is important to point out that areola reduction is a cosmetic surgery and will not be covered by your health insurance.
Do your homework to find a competent plastic surgeon with a lot of expertise in areola reduction. Be sure to discuss all aspects of the procedure – options, risks, complications, etc. – so you will know what to expect. Research and discussion will help you get the best results.