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Mastitis

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Oct.18.2021
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 Mastitis

Mastitis

Mastitis is inflammation of the breast tissue. It occurs most often in women who are breastfeeding, but it can also affect other women, and sometimes even men.

What are the causes?

This condition is usually caused by a bacterial infection. Bacteria can enter the breast tissue through cuts or openings in the skin. This usually occurs with breastfeeding because of cracked or irritated nipples. Sometimes, mastitis can occur when there are no cuts or openings in the skin. This is usually caused by plugged milk ducts.

Other causes include:
  • Nipple piercing.
  • Some forms of breast cancer.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:
  • Swelling, redness, tenderness, and pain in an area of the breast. The area may also feel warm to the touch. These symptoms usually affect the upper part of the breast, toward the armpit region.
  • Swelling of the glands under the arm on the same side.
  • Discharge from the nipple.
  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Rapid pulse.
  • Fatigue, headache, and flu-like muscle aches.

If an infection is not treated, a collection of pus, or an abscess, may develop on the breast.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition can usually be diagnosed based on a physical exam and your symptoms. You may also have other tests, such as:
  • Blood tests to check if your body is fighting an infection from bacteria.
  • Mammogram or ultrasound tests to rule out other problems or diseases.
  • Testing of pus and other fluids. Pus from the breast may be collected and tested in the lab. If an abscess has developed, the fluid in the abscess can be removed with a needle. This test can be used to confirm the diagnosis and identify the type of bacteria that is causing your mastitis.
  • Culturing and testing breast milk for bacteria. This is done only if you are breastfeeding.

How is this treated?

Treatment for this condition may include:
  • Applying heat or cold compresses to the affected area.
  • Medicine for pain.
  • Antibiotic medicine to treat an infection from bacteria. This is usually taken by mouth.
  • Self-care, including rest and drinking more fluid.
  • Removing fluid with a needle, if an abscess has developed.

Mastitis that occurs with breastfeeding will sometimes go away on its own, so your health care provider may choose to wait 24 hours after first seeing you to decide whether a prescription medicine is needed. You may be told of different ways to help manage breastfeeding, such as continuing to breastfeed or pump in order to ensure adequate milk flow.

Follow these instructions at home:

If you are breastfeeding:

  • Continue to empty your breasts as often as possible. You can empty your breasts by breastfeeding or by using a breast pump. This will decrease the pressure and the pain that comes with full breasts.
    • Ask your health care provider if you should make changes to your breastfeeding or pumping routine.
  • During breastfeeding, empty the first breast completely before going to the other breast. If your baby is not emptying your breasts completely, use a breast pump to empty your breasts.
  • Keep your nipples clean and dry.
  • Use breast massage during feeding or pumping sessions.
  • If directed, apply moist heat to the affected area of your breast right before breastfeeding or pumping. Use the heat source that your health care provider recommends.
  • If directed, put ice on the affected area of your breast right after breastfeeding or pumping. To do this:
    • Put ice in a plastic bag.
    • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.
    • Leave the ice on for 20 minutes.
    • Remove the ice if your skin turns bright red. This is very important. If you cannot feel pain, heat, or cold, you have a greater risk of damage to the area.
  • If you go back to work, pump your breasts while at work to stay within your nursing schedule.
  • Avoid allowing your breasts to become very full with milk (engorged).

Medicines

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • If you were prescribed an antibiotic medicine, take it as told by your health care provider. Do not stop taking the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.

General instructions

  • Do not wear a tight or underwire bra. Wear a soft, supportive bra.
  • Drink enough fluid to keep your urine pale yellow. This is especially important if you have a fever.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Keep all follow-up visits. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have pus-like discharge from the breast.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your symptoms do not improve within 2 days of starting treatment.

Get help right away if:

  • Your pain and swelling are getting worse.
  • You have pain that is not controlled with medicine.
  • You have a red line extending from the breast toward your armpit.

Summary

  • Mastitis is inflammation of the breast tissue. It occurs most often in women who are breastfeeding, but it can also affect non-breastfeeding women and some men.
  • This condition is usually caused by a bacterial infection.
  • This condition may be treated with hot and cold compresses, medicines, self-care, and certain breastfeeding strategies.
  • If you were prescribed an antibiotic medicine, take it as told by your health care provider. Do not stop taking the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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