Mastitis

Contents

General Information

Causes

Symptoms

Exams and Tests

Treatment

Outlook (Prognosis)

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Prevention

Alternative Names

 

General Information

A breast infection is an infection in the tissue of the breast.

Most breast infections occur in breastfeeding women when bacteria enters the breast through cracks in the nipple. In severe infections, abscesses may occur. Antibiotics may be indicated for treatment.

Causes

Breast infections are usually caused by a common bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus) found on normal skin. The bacteria enter through a break or crack in the skin, usually on the nipple.

The infection takes place in the fatty tissue of the breast and causes swelling. This swelling pushes on the milk ducts. The result is pain and lumps in the infected breast.

Breast infections usually occur in women who are breastfeeding. Breast infections that are not related to breastfeeding might be a rare form of breast cancer.

Symptoms

Exams and Tests

Breastfeeding women are usually not tested. However, an exam is often helpful to confirm the diagnosis and rule out complications such as an abscess.

Sometimes for infections that keep returning, milk from the nipple will be cultured. In women who are not breastfeeding, testing may include mammography or breast biopsy.

Treatment

Self-care may include applying moist heat to the infected breast tissue for 15 to 20 minutes four times a day.

Antibiotic medications are usually very effective in treating a breast infection. You are encouraged to continue to breastfeed or to pump to relieve breast engorgement from milk production while receiving treatment.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The condition usually clears quickly with antibiotic therapy.

Possible Complications

In severe infections, an abscess may develop. Abscesses need to be drained, either as an office procedure or with surgery. Women with abscesses may be told to temporarily stop breastfeeding.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • Any portion of the breast tissue becomes reddened, tender, swollen, or hot
  • You are breastfeeding and develop a high fever
  • The lymph nodes in the armpit become tender or swollen

Prevention

The following may help reduce the risk of breast infections:

  • Careful nipple care to prevent irritation and cracking
  • Feeding often and pumping milk to prevent engorgement of the breast
  • Proper breastfeeding technique with good latching by the baby
  • Weaning slowly, over several weeks, rather than abruptly stopping breastfeeding

Alternative Names

Infection - breast tissue; Breast abscess

Information presented on this website is for general use. It intended to address issues of your concern. It is not intended to serve as a basis for professional diagnosis and treatment of diseases or health conditions.
 
Should you have health problems we suggest you to seek assistance from a licensed healthcare professional and medical organization. In the case of a medical emergency, please call emergency services immediately.