Yes, it is totally normal to have small bumps on the dark skin around the nipple (the areola). The bumps are called Montgomery tubercles; they secrete oil (produced by glands beneath the skin) that helps lubricate the areola and nipple during pregnancy and lactation. The oil also has antibacterial properties, and research has suggested that infants may even detect the smell of the secretions, helping direct them to the breast to latch onto for feeding. The number of bumps varies from person to person. Some may have just a few, while others may have dozens.
The bumps sometimes become more prominent when the nipple is stimulated or during pregnancy and breastfeeding. (The bumps, as well as the rest of the nipple, may become a darker, more intense shade during pregnancy and breastfeeding, too.) In general, you should leave these bumps alone—they’re nothing to worry about. But if a bump looks inflamed or is painful, it’s possible that a gland is infected or clogged, and you should get it checked out by your doctor, who can prescribe antibiotics or drain the gland if necessary.
Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.