Smoking Can Make Your Nipples Fall Off
“I cringe every time I see a patient for a breast lift who is a smoker. I’m deathly afraid that despite my warnings, she will smoke before or after surgery and cause her nipples to turn black and fall off. Yes. Smokers who undergo breast lifts are at great risk of losing their nipples. I’ve seen it before.” – Anthony Youn, M.D., a plastic surgeon in Detroit and author of In Stitches, a humorous memoir about becoming a doctor and growing up Asian American.
“Imagine yourself looking like ‘Two-Face’ from Batman: The Dark Knight”
In his book, Dr. Youn tells the story of a smoker whose nipples actually turned purple (the precursor to black – the precursor to falling off) while undergoing a breast lift surgery. With this particular patient, Dr. Youn turned to the only treatment that was available during surgery – leeches!
Apparently, the nicotine in cigarettes and the carbon monoxide contained in cigarette smoke can diminish blood flow to various parts of the body. The toxins become a tourniquet, and if enough of the blood flow is constricted, that body part will literally die.
We use leeches to literally suck out the excess venous blood from the body part, acting as an attachable vein. The leech drains the old blood, causing it to turn from unhealthy purple back to healthy pink. We place leeches intermittently until the body part grows new blood vessels to do the leeches’ work. This can take several days (CNN).
In another instance, Dr. Yuen recalls a patient named Susan who came into his office for a consultation, and admitted to being a pack-a-day smoker. Dr. Yuen advised Susan to stop smoking at least a month before surgery, and to remain smoke-free for a month after as well. Surprise surprise, Susan did not take heed to his warning, and arrived at the hospital for her surgery, wreaking of ash and smoke.
When he clearly wasn’t getting through to her, they had this very frank conversation:
“Susan, I thought you quit smoking.”
‘I did. OK. For a while. It’s really hard to quit, Dr. Youn.’
“I know,” I said. “But this is a big deal. There could be major healing problems if you smoke before or after surgery.”
‘I understand. But I want to go ahead with the surgery anyway. It’ll be fine.’
She wasn’t hearing me. I needed to get through to her. “Susan, listen to me. If I operate on you, your nipples could turn black and fall off.”
Her eyes widened. ‘You mean… I’d have no nipples?’
“No nipples. That’s what smoking can do.”
Susan flushed. She raised her voice. ‘Dr. Youn, I took a week off work for this surgery. I had to put my whole life on hold for an entire week. If you told me I’d lose my nipples from smoking, I would’ve quit for good. This is your fault.’
Now, Dr. Youn issues this warning to his patients who smoke:
If you are having a breast lift or reduction and you smoke, your nipples could turn black and fall off. If you are having a tummy tuck and you smoke, you may get an infection resulting in a big gross open wound that will take three months to heal. If you are having a facelift and you smoke, the skin of your cheek could turn black and slough off, leaving exposed fat. Imagine yourself looking like “Two-Face” from “Batman: The Dark Knight.”
And do you really want me to reach for the jar of leeches?
Beware smokers, you have officially been warned.