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This article is about the breast tissue. For the entomology term, see the glossary of Lepidopteran terms. For an artistic cloud motif, see aureola. For the cactus feature, see Areole.

Close-up of a human female breast showing the areola.
File:Breast anatomy normal
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
Gray's subject #271 1267

In anatomy, an areola, plural areolae, or 'back bit' (diminutive of Latin area, "open place") is any circular area such as the colored skin surrounding the nipple. Although the term is most commonly used to describe the pigmented area around the human nipple (areola mammae), it can also be used to describe other small circular areas such as the inflamed region surrounding a pimple.

Careful inspection of a mature human female nipple will reveal several small openings arranged radially around the tip of the nipple (lactiferous ducts) from where milk is released during lactation. Other small openings in the areola are sebaceous glands, known as Montgomery's glands (or glands of Montgomery)[citation needed], which provide lubrication to protect the area around the nipple and assist with suckling and pumping of the lactation[citation needed]. These can be quite obvious and raised above the surface of the areola, giving the appearance of "goose-flesh". This tissue, in addition to supporting the flow of milk, also bears the brunt of physical stress that the suckling involves[citation needed].

Another reason for its color comes from an abundance of two polymers: eumelanin (the brown pigment) and pheomelanin (the red pigment)[citation needed]. The genetically-directed amount of these pigments determines the color of the areola. They can range from pale yellow to nearly black, but generally tend to be paler among people with lighter skin tones and darker among people with darker skin tones.

Additionally, it has been claimed that an evolutionary reason for the differing color is to make the nipple area more visible to the infant.[1]

An individual's areolae may also change color over time in response to hormonal changes caused by menstruation, certain medications, and aging[citation needed]. Most notably, the areolae may darken substantially during pregnancy—some regression to the original color may occur after the baby is born, but again, this varies from individual to individual.

Size and shape

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 areolae of most men is around 25 mm (1 in) in diameter while those of sexually mature women may range up to 100 mm (4 in) or more in diameter, with average sizes around 30 mm (1.2 in).[2] The areolae of women who are lactating or who have particularly large breasts may be even larger.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ M. Hussain, L. Rynn, C. Riordan and P. J. Regan, Nipple-areola reconstruction: outcome assessment; European Journal of Plastic Surgery, Vol. 26, Num. 7, December, 2003


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




From Latin areola (small vacant space, garden)



areolas or areolae

areola (plural areolas or areolae)

  1. (anatomy) The colored circle around a nipple, more exactly known as areola mammae.
  2. (anatomy) Any small circular area that is different from its immediate environment such as the colored ring around the pupil of the eye (iris) or an inflamed region surrounding a pimple.

Usage notes


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Derived terms

See also



areola f. (plural areole)

  1. areola

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