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Female Areola.jpg
Close-up of a human female breast showing the areola
Breast anatomy normal scheme.png
Breast schematic diagram
(adult female human cross section)
Legend: 1. Chest wall 2. Pectoralis muscles
3. Lobules 4. Nipple 5. Areola 6. Duct
7. Fatty tissue 8. Skin
Latin areola mammae
TA A16.0.02.012
FMA 67796
Anatomical terminology
The Male Areola

In anatomy, the areola (/əˈrələ/[1][2] or /ɛrˈlə/[2]) is a small circular area on the body with a different histology from the surrounding tissue. The term is most commonly used to denote the pigmented area on the human breast around the nipple (areola mammae) but it can also describe other small circular areas such as an inflamed region of skin.

The plural of areola is areolas or areolae, which is pronounced /əˈrəl/ or /əˈrəl/. "Areola" is the diminutive of Latin area, "open place".

Human mammary areola[edit]

Careful inspection of a mature human female nipple will reveal several small openings arranged radially around the tip of the nipple (lactiferous ducts) from which milk is released during lactation. Other small openings in the areola are sebaceous glands, known as Montgomery's glands (or glands of Montgomery).[3] These can be quite obvious and raised above the surface of the areola, giving the appearance of "goose-flesh".


Comparison of the difference between color and size of the areolae

The areolae can range from pink to red to dark brown or nearly black, but generally tend to be paler among people with lighter skin tones and darker among people with darker skin tones. A reason for the differing color may be to make the nipple area more visible to the infant.[4]

Size and shape[edit]

Large areola contestant at Nudes-A-Popping 2013. Sexually mature women have an average of 38.1 mm (1.5 in), but sizes range up to 100 mm (4 in) or greater.[5]

The size and shape of areolae are also highly variable, with those of sexually mature women usually being larger than those of men and prepubescent girls. Human areolae are mostly circular in shape, but many women and some men have areolae that are noticeably elliptical.

The average diameter of male areolae is around 28.0 mm (1.1 in). Sexually mature women have an average of 38.1 mm (1.5 in), but sizes range up to 100 mm (4 in) or greater.[6] Lactating women, and women with particularly large breasts, may have even larger areolae. A function of the specialized dermis of the areola is to protect the regular breast skin from wear, cracking, irritation, and/or consequent infections; it is exposed to these risks by the salivary effect of a nursing infant and milk residues adhering to its surface. Another function of an areola is to house slowly-adapting mechanoreceptors that trigger oxytocin excretion during nursing. The size of the areola implies a need to protect a larger area than the nipple due to many factors which are not fully known.

Rated according to the Tanner scale of physical development, in stage four, the areolae are raised.[7] In stage five, they are no longer raised.[7]


Suckling by the baby innervates slowly-adapting and rapidly-adapting mechanoreceptors that are densely packed around the areolar region.


Paget's disease of the breast is a malignant condition that outwardly may have the appearance of eczema, with skin changes involving the areola and nipple.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ OED 2nd edition, 1989.
  2. ^ a b Entry "areola" in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
  3. ^ "PLOS ONE". Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  4. ^ "Yahoo Health". Retrieved 9 January 2016. 
  5. ^ Hussain, M.; Rynn, L.; Riordan, C.; Regan, P. J. (2003). "Nipple-areola reconstruction: outcome assessment". European Journal of Plastic Surgery. 26 (7): 356–358. doi:10.1007/s00238-003-0566-x. 
  6. ^ Hussain, M.; Rynn, L.; Riordan, C.; Regan, P. J. (2003). "Nipple-areola reconstruction: outcome assessment". European Journal of Plastic Surgery. 26 (7): 356–358. doi:10.1007/s00238-003-0566-x. 
  7. ^ a b Le, Tao; Bhushan, Vikas; Tolles, Juliana (2011). First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2011. McGraw-Hill Medical.