What Are Montgomery Tubercles?

Having small bumps around your nipples is completely normal.

The small bumps you may notice around your nipples are Montgomery tubercles, and yes, they're totally normal. Montgomery tubercles lubricate your breasts, keep them clear of germs, and have a role in lactation. 

About 9% of females have Montgomery tubercles. The number of bumps varies from person to person—some have just a few, while others may have dozens. 

Here's what you should know about Montgomery tubercles—including what they look like, what causes them, what to do if they become infected, and whether you should remove them.

What Are Montgomery Tubercles?

You may notice your hair becomes greasy if you don't wash it for a few days. That's the work of sebaceous glands, also known as oil glands.

You have sebaceous glands all over your body, including your areolas, which are the dark circular skin areas surrounding your nipples. The sebaceous glands on your areolas are called Montgomery tubercles, named after obstetrician William Fetherstone Montgomery.

Like the sebaceous glands on your scalp and all over your body, Montgomery tubercles lubricate your areolas, which keeps them from drying out.

Montgomery tubercles can provide many benefits, including:

  • Helping infants breastfeed by emitting a scent that attracts them to the nipples
  • Keeping germs out of breast milk
  • Preventing cracked or chapped nipples
  • Preventing infection by lubricating skin  

What Do Montgomery Tubercles Look Like?

Have you ever been so spooked or chilled that you noticed goosebumps on your arms? Well, Montgomery tubercles can appear a lot like those bumps.

Usually, Montgomery tubercles are about one to two millimeters in size. They can be the same color as your areola or red, white, or yellow. Also, in some cases, there are more of those bumps on one breast than the other.

What Causes Montgomery Tubercles?

Montgomery tubercles may pop up because of several reasons, such as:

  • Arousal of the nipple
  • Changes in body weight
  • Changes in hormones
  • Cold temperatures
  • Medications
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress
  • Tight-fitting clothes

However, for the most part, Montgomery tubercles are typical during pregnancy, breastfeeding, puberty, and certain phases of the menstrual cycle.


Changes to your breasts and nipples are among the most common early signs of pregnancy. Breasts often swell, become bigger than usual, and feel tender. Also, if you're pregnant, you may notice Montgomery tubercles.

Not every pregnant person has Montgomery tubercles, though. Likewise, new bumps near your nipples do not necessarily mean you're pregnant.

Take an at-home pregnancy test or consult a healthcare provider if you have Montgomery tubercles and other symptoms of early pregnancy. In addition to changes to your breasts and nipples, early pregnancy symptoms include morning sickness, fatigue, and spotting.

Puberty and the Menstrual Cycle

Changing hormones during puberty and the menstrual cycle also causes Montgomery tubercles to pop up near the nipples. The amount of estrogen in your body increases during puberty, ovulation, and before menstruation. Increasing estrogen facilitates the growth of Montgomery tubercles.

Montgomery Tubercles and Breastfeeding

During pregnancy and lactation, the Montgomery tubercles enlarge to produce more oil to lubricate your areolas as the breasts also enlarge. The glands also promote healthy breastfeeding. Lubricating your areolas prevents bacteria from entering your breast milk and infecting your infant.

Those natural oils also protect your nipples from becoming cracked or chapped. You can also apply lanolin, a moisturizing cream, to your nipples to avoid damage while breastfeeding. If you're breastfeeding. avoid washing your breasts with soap, which dries your nipples,

Montgomery tubercles emit a scent that attracts your infant to your nipple, aiding breastfeeding. When secretions from the lactating female were compared with secretions from non-related lactating people, the female's secretions increased the breastfeeding response from the baby—intensifying the suckling response and slightly increasing the baby's heart rate and breathing.

Can Montgomery Tubercles Become Infected?

Like stubborn pimples, you may want to pop Montgomery tubercles to get rid of them quickly. However, popping Montgomery tubercles may cause infections. Other factors that increase your risk of infection include:

Montgomery tubercles may also become clogged or inflamed, especially if you touch your nipples, use certain creams or moisturizers, or wear tight clothing.

Signs of infection include:

  • Feeling ill or fatigued in general
  • Fever and chills
  • Itching, drainage, bleeding, or pus from a lump
  • A swollen, tender lump near the nipples

Antibiotics are used to treat infections. The infected area may also need to be opened and drained. This can be done in a healthcare provider's office with topical medicine to numb the affected area. If the infection comes back, the infected gland may need to be surgically removed.

Symptoms To Watch Out For

In some rare cases, Montgomery tubercle infections are a symptom of breast cancer, particularly if you see drainage, bleeding, or pus. Talk to a healthcare provider if you have signs of an infection and other signs of breast cancer, which include:

  • Changes to one or both of your breasts, including changes in the shapes of your nipples
  • Discharge from your nipples not related to breastfeeding
  • Fatigue
  • Hard lumps on your breasts
  • Skin that looks like an orange peel, also known as "dimpling," on your breasts
  • Swollen lymph nodes near your armpits
  • Weight loss

What Is a Montgomery Cyst?

Montgomery tubercles that become clogged may lead to Montgomery cysts. Usually, healthcare providers see those cysts in adolescents. In general, Montgomery cysts are uncommon, painless, and often go away on their own.

However, if Montgomery cysts become infected, consult a healthcare provider. They can drain the cyst using a needle and syringe to get rid of the infection.

Should I Remove Montgomery Tubercles?

Montgomery tubercles are normal and provide several benefits during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Healthcare providers don't typically advise removing them.

Still, if you want to get rid of Montgomery tubercles for cosmetic reasons, you can opt for a surgical procedure. Surgically removing the bumps from your areolas may cause scarring. Consult a healthcare provider about whether removing Montgomery tubercles is the best option for you.

A Quick Review

Montgomery tubercles are small bumps around your nipples and are completely normal. They are most common during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as around puberty and throughout the menstrual cycle. Still, people can develop them for several reasons.

Montgomery tubercles shouldn't hurt. If you have any pain, which can be a sign of an infection, consult a healthcare provider.

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12 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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