The areola is the pigmented (brown or pink) area on the breast, which surrounds the nipple. The size and shape may vary depending on a person’s gender and age.
The diameter of sexually mature women’s areola ranges from 3.8 to 5.0 cm, and on average is approximately of 4.7 cm. However, many women and men have larger areolas which is why they may decide to have an areola reduction procedure.
The most common reason that people opt to have an areola reduction is because they are dissatisfied with the appearance of their areola, or its size and proportion to the breast. Undergoing the procedure can help to improve their self-confidence and self-esteem.
Areola Reduction Procedure
An areola reduction is a quick and simple cosmetic procedure. Patients will see a permanent decrease in the areola size with limited scarring.
The surgery lasts about thirty minutes and is performed under a local anesthesia.
A circular area of the excess areola (between two marks: the current and desired areola lines) is removed. The edge of the new smaller areola is gently sutured to the outer skin. This technique creates many pleats. If the removed area is too large, the surgeon may suggest the vertical incision under the areola to avoid the pleats. The incision will resolve just in a few months. Usually surgeons use two types of stitches. The absorbable (dissolvable) stitches, which break down in a short period of time, are used to reduce the diameter of areolas. The permanent stitches are needed to prevent the widening of the areolas.
After the procedure, the patient may experience some soreness for 24-48 hours. The pain and discomfort can last for a week. To minimize discomfort and to speed the healing process the doctor may prescribe medications such as painkillers and blood thinners.
Risks and Complications
Although the duration of the surgery is relatively quick and the procedure itself is considered to be simple, there are certain risks that may occur.
The most common risks are:
- Bruising. Bruising appears as a result of the damage to the blood vessel(s), which is unavoidable during surgery.
- Swelling. Swelling is an enlargement of any part of the body, due to an accumulation of fluids. This is a part of inflammation, which is needed to heal the wounds.
- Temporary numbness. The loss of sensation usually occurs because of tissue swelling around the nerves. These two symptoms usually go away together.
- Bleeding. The patients are strongly recommended to quit smoking in the period of procedure and recovery as it may cause bleeding. Furthermore, the doctor regulates the dose of blood thinners.
- Infection. The region of areolas must be clean to avoid any bacterial infection. The area can be infected during both surgical procedure and recovery period.
- Bad scarring. Scarring is a step of healing. However, if the incisions were made irregularly, bad scarring can occur.
- Permanent loss of sensation in the nipple area. This may occur due to nerve damage during the surgery.
Generally, the procedure doesn’t affect the ability to breastfeed.
Aftercare and Recovery
The recovery time is quite short (full recovery period lasts three months). After the surgery is completed, the patient must wear a dressings and a light gauze bandage for several days. Patients can generally shower two days after surgery.
Follow-up appointments allow the doctor to inspect the areolas and evaluate the healing process. Usually, the doctor invites the patient during the first week, the second week and in three upcoming months. As a result, the patient gets reduced areolas with the desired size and shape. If the reduced area is small, only an unnoticeable scar is left around the base of the nipple.
Is Areola Reduction Available on the NHS?
As areola reductions are performed for cosmetic reasons they are not available on the NHS, people who wish to have the procedure will have to pay for it privately.
Areola Reduction Cost
Costs vary from £2000 to £4500, which includes the surgery and follow-up appointments. The cost of the procedure depends on the clinic, the experience of surgeons, type of anesthesia (local or general) and whether both or only one areola is reduced. A more accurate price can be given at the consultation.