What are Montgomery Glands?

Julie · December 22, 2021
This article has been written and endorsed by the dermatologist Maria del Carmen Hernandez
Montgomery glands have a very important function during lactation. Do you know what it is? Find out in the following article.

Montgomery glands, also called Montgomery glands, are not well-known parts of the human body. However, they perform essential functions that are modified according to the needs of the body.

These glands are named after the Irish obstetrician who described them for the first time in 1837. In the article to follow, we’ll tell you what Montgomery glands are and what their function is.

What are Montgomery glands?

Montgomery glands are sebaceous glands that appear as small protuberances around the nipples, more precisely in the areola.

Not all women are able to recognize them easily, however, during pregnancy, it’s easier to detect them. If you look closely, you’ll see tiny protuberances or bumps in the areola, the dark area of the nipple.

The number of glands can vary from person to person, as can their size. On average, 10 to 20 areolar glands are usually found per breast.

Read also: Preventing and Curing Sore, Cracked Nipples

The functions Montgomery glands

One of the most important functions of Montgomery glands is to promote lubrication and keep the breasts free of germs.

In fact, when a woman is breastfeeding, the secretions produced in them help to prevent contamination of breast milk before it’s ingested by the infant.

Alterations in Montgomery glands

A woman holding a calendar with the days of her period marked on it.

The Montgomery glands may undergo alterations as a consequence of hormonal changes, among which the following processes stand out:

  • Puberty
  • Pregnancy
  • A woman’s menstrual cycle

Some of the causes of enlargement, unrelated to hormonal alterations, include the following:

  • Stress
  • Breast cancer
  • Drugs
  • Tight clothing
  • Nipple stimulation
  • Physical changes, such as sudden weight loss or gain

You may be interested in: How Do Hormonal Changes Affect the Skin After Childbirth?

Changes in pregnancy

Changes in the mammary glands may be one of the first signs of pregnancy. In fact, some women notice them before they’ve even missed their period.

Some early symptoms that may accompany enlarged Montgomery glands are described below:

Over time, as the body prepares for breastfeeding, the size of the glands also increases, and the size and pigmentation of the nipple change as well.

Changes in Montgomery glands during lactation

One of the great benefits offered by the areolar glands is the lubrication of the nipple during lactation to avoid injury and discomfort. This is due to the type of sebaceous and antibacterial secretion they produce.

Consequently, breastfeeding women should wash or rinse their nipples with soap and water during their daily shower. It’s important to avoid disinfectant solutions or products that tend to dry or irritate the area.

Montgomery glands infections

As with all glands, Montgomery glands can become blocked, inflamed, and infected.

According to a publication of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, whenever you notice swelling, redness, pain, or any unusual changes around the nipple area, you should see your health care provider.

If bleeding, pus discharge, itching, or any type of rash around the nipple is evident, a consultation with a breast specialist should also be made.

There are also some rarer changes, which could be signs or symptoms of breast cancer. These are as follows:

  • Hard lumps in the breast
  • Dimpling on the surface
  • Changes in the size or shape of the nipple or breast
  • Enlarged axillary lymph nodes
  • Nipple discharge

Care for the areola and glands

During the breastfeeding period, the areola may suffer trauma leading to the development of fissures. This can affect the health of the pregnant woman and interfere with breastfeeding.

One way to avoid this situation is to follow certain tips to ensure proper hygiene of the area:

  • Always avoid squeezing Montgomery glands when they increase in size and look like pimples with liquid content. When the skin breaks, it could cause painful discomfort and open the door to various germs.
  • Create hygiene habits during breastfeeding that don’t involve soaps or disinfectants that dry the skin.
  • Don’t use astringent products, as they may alter the glands’ main function of generating protective secretions.
  • Use your own breast milk to smear the region and stimulate its hydration.
A pregnant woman washing her belly in the shower.

Montgomery glands and their importance

Areolar glands aren’t a sign of disease and shouldn’t be considered as infrequent manifestations of the skin’s surface.

Rather, they play an essential role during breastfeeding, increasing in size and gradually decreasing when the breastfeeding period ceases.

  • Ackerman AB, Penneys NS. Montgomery’s tubercles. Sebaceous glands. Obstet Gynecol. 1971 Dec;38(6):924-7. PMID: 5125445.
  • NAESLUND J. The function of Montgomery’s tubercles. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 1957;36(4):460-7. doi: 10.3109/00016345709157417. PMID: 13487292.