Areola reduction surgery involves reducing the size of the darkened skin around the nipples. This relatively simple procedure delivers permanent aesthetic changes to the breasts. In most cases, the surgery is performed with a local anaesthetic and takes around an hour.
The areola is the area of dark, pigmented skin that surrounds your nipples. The size, shape and colour of areolas can vary greatly. People who are self-conscious about how their areolas look can benefit from reduction surgery. Surgery can reduce the size of one or both of your areolas. Surgeons can also make changes to the shape. Some patients choose to have their areolas reduced when they undergo breast augmentation surgery.
Your cosmetic surgeon will need to hold a thorough consultation with you before committing to surgery. You will be asked about why you want the surgery and the results you are hoping for. There will be an opportunity to be specific about the size and shape you want.
Most areola reduction surgeries are performed with a local anaesthetic. This means you will remain awake for the entire procedure. However, your surgeon may prefer to perform the procedure using a general anaesthetic. You may be able to request general anaesthesia, but whether or not this is possible is often left to the surgeon's discretion.
Once your breast has been disinfected, the surgeon will cut out a doughnut-shaped section of tissue from your areola (around the nipple). Your surgeon will remove this circular piece of tissue from the edge of the areola. This will minimise scarring later. The open would within the areola is then sutured in place. The sutures are located deep within the breast tissue as this ensures the areola doesn't move and become distorted over time. In most cases, dissolvable stitches are used to close the wound. Your surgeon will complete the procedure by applying some surgical dressings. However, you may be offered a post-surgical bra.
While surgeons usually have their own approach to areola reduction surgery, the basic principles remain the same. However, a lot of people opt to have the procedure at the same time as a breast implant or augmentation. This can save patients money and the trauma of having to undergo two separate surgical procedures.
While areola surgery is relatively simple, routine surgery, it's not without its risks. Your surgeon will discuss all the potential problems with you in advance. The surgeon will examine your breasts and discuss your aesthetic goals. The surgery itself may take just an hour to complete - a little longer if you have a general anaesthetic. If you have a local anaesthetic, you can expect to be sent home the same day.
When you arrive at the hospital, you may be asked to take a shower with surgical soap. You'll also be asked to remove all your jewellery and put on a surgical gown. The surgeon's clinical team will then perform a range of essential observations, including taking your blood pressure. If you're having a general anaesthetic, an intravenous line will be inserted into a vein - probably on your hand or arm. As you'll be unconscious, you'll also need to be hooked up to a heart monitor.
Expect some pain and discomfort during the days and weeks after surgery. However, a lot of patients are pain-free just a few days after the procedure. You'll have stitches in place for two weeks, so you'll have to take steps to keep them dry and clean. Success rates are high, so you should be able to return to your normal activities within two weeks. If the sutures hold, your new areola should retain its new shape and size for the rest of your life. You must attend all your post-operative check-ups and appointments. Your surgeon will check for signs of infection as well as some of the side-effects listed above. You also need to be sure that the healing process is progressing as normal. During these follow-up sessions, you'll be given important lifestyle and rehabilitation advice. You can minimise your recovery period by doing what your surgery team instructs.
Areola reduction is permanent, so you should be absolutely sure it's the right course of action for you. Some surgeons will advise against having the surgery if you want to breastfeed in the future; this is because the milk ducts are susceptible to damage during the procedure - although rare, some women aren't able to breastfeed after areola reduction surgery. These risks will be explained to you by your surgeon.