We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Athelia?

By C.B. Fox
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
TheHealthBoard is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At TheHealthBoard, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Athelia is a condition in which one or both nipples are absent. This is a congenital condition, which means that it is present from birth. It is not possible to develop athelia later in life, and the loss of one or both nipples because of accident, disease or surgery is not considered athelia.

A rare condition, athelia is a birth defect that can develop during the first trimester. During the sixth week of gestation, a growing fetus begins to develop mammary glands, and if these do not mature normally, the baby might be born with athelia. The occurrence of this condition can also be traced to the period immediately before or after birth, because the nipples develop out of the breast tissue at this time. Occasionally, an infant might be born with amastia, which is the lack of all breast tissue on one or both sides, including the absence of the nipple.

Though athelia itself might be considered a benign condition, women missing nipples on both sides will be unable to breastfeed. If the condition is an isolated anomaly, this is the most serious problem for people with the condition. Athelia is, however, linked to a number of more serious diseases, including Poland sequence, ectodermal dysplasia and Yunis-Varon syndrome, all of which are congenital.

In Poland sequence, the chest muscle is deformed or missing on one side of the body, which effects the development of nearby muscles and the hand on the same side. Often, infants born with this condition are missing ribs and show increased webbing between the fingers, which impairs motor ability. In girls, the breast and nipple on the affected side are usually absent. This disorder is classified as a nonspecific developmental field defect, and as such, there is no known cause. Poland sequence is a rare condition that affects the right side of the body nearly twice as often as the left.

A problem in the development of the ectoderm can cause athelia in people who are affected by ectodermal dysplasia or Yunis-Varon syndrome. The ectoderm is the outer layer of a very young embryo and later turns into the skin, nervous system, teeth and sweat glands. If the ectoderm fails to develop properly, these parts of the body might show abnormalities. The nipple, which is a modified sweat gland, might be absent on one or both sides in people affected by either of these conditions.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Kat919 — On Jan 17, 2012

@jennythelib - Well, they won't be the easiest years for her. I would encourage her mom to get her into counseling around when she starts puberty; she needs to know that it's OK to just be who she is. If she wants to date, that might be a possibility, and if she winds up not dating in high school, well, I know plenty of great people who didn't date in high school and are now happily married with families.

I wonder if she could be helped by prostheses like those worn by mastectomy survivors. There are probably specialty custom bra makers who could help her - maybe she could have a couple different sizes made so she seems to "develop"! I have no idea if that would be a possibility or not, but it's definitely worth looking into. Good luck to your friend and her daughter!

By jennythelib — On Jan 16, 2012

A friend of mine has a daughter with athelia and amastia. Aside from being obviously unable to breastfeed, should she ever want to, the doctors think she will otherwise develop normally, thank goodness.

The little girl is only seven now, but her mother is really worried about the teenage years. Obviously, she doesn't want her to have more surgeries than necessary, so they want to wait until she is basically grown up before having breast implants (and I think they can do cosmetic nipples for her, too).

That leaves a lot of weird years for the poor kid to go through when she will be just absolutely flat as a pancake! She'll look great and be as big as she wants one day, but I don't know *how* she's going to get through high school.

TheHealthBoard, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

TheHealthBoard, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.