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A nipple, a cellphone camera -- and a diagnosis

July 24, 2009 | 12:05 am

Cellphone cameras are so handy, aren't they? In a bizarre little article in the British Medical Journal, doctors describe how a woman, by taking quick snapshots of her nipple, was able to provide clear evidence of the symptoms she was experiencing -- and as a result, a diagnosis was made.

The article, "Lesson of the Week: An underdiagnosed cause of nipple pain presented on a camera phone," described a 25-year-old breast-feeding woman who was experiencing extreme transient pain in the nipples. The nipples, in addition, changed color:

--First white, with tingling,
--Then blue, with a burning pain,
--Then red, with the pain fading away.

(We kid you not.)

The patient carefully took photographs of her nipples in each of these states, presented them to her doctor, and a diagnosis of "Raynaud's phenomenon of the nipple" was made. What happens is this:

WHITE -- blood vessels constrict (cut-off in blood supply leads to whiteness)
BLUE -- remaining blood in the nipples turns blue because it becomes deoxygenated, and that's the color blood turns when the oxygen in it is used up
RED -- the vessels dilate, and fresh, oxygenated blood re-enters the nipple.

This occurs when the temperature drops below a certain key level, one that depends upon the patient in question.

As the paper explains, the patient should: Avoid exposure to cold. Breast-feed in warm environments. And wear warm clothes.

--Rosie Mestel