What is mastitis?
Mastitis is a condition in which a woman’s breast tissue becomes abnormally swollen or inflamed. It is usually caused by an infection of the breast ducts. It occurs almost exclusively in women who are breast-feeding.
Mastitis can occur with or without the presence of infection. As it progresses, mastitis can cause the formation of a breast abscess.This is a localized collection of pus within breast tissue. Severe cases of mastitis can be fatal if left untreated.
- swelling or breast enlargement
- redness, swelling, tenderness, or a sensation of warmth on the breast
- itching over the breast tissue
- tenderness under your arm
- a small cut or wound in the nipple or on the skin of the breast
Bacteria are normally found on the skin. Everyone has them, and they are normally harmless. But if bacteria are able to break through the skin, they can cause an infection. If bacteria enter the breast tissue, due to a break in the skin near or around the nipple, they may cause mastitis.
Obstruction of a milk duct
Milk ducts carry milk from the breast glands to the nipple. When these ducts are blocked, milk builds up within the breast and causes inflammation and may result in infection.
- breastfeeding for the first few weeks after childbirth
- sore or cracked nipples
- using only one position to breastfeed
- wearing a tight fitting bra
- previous episodes of mastitis
- extreme tiredness or fatigue
In these situations, you are at risk of a milk buildup within one or both breasts, or at risk of infection of the breast tissue.
- Antibiotics: Certain antibiotics can eradicate the bacterial infection causing mastitis. You should not take any antibiotics that have not been prescribed by your physician.
- Ibuprofen: Ibuprofen is an over-the-counter drug that can be used to decrease the pain, fever, and swelling associated with mastitis.
- Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen can also be used to decrease pain and fever.
Antibiotic treatment usually completely resolves the infection. Breast-feeding mothers are still able to breast-feed during treatment. The infection is in the breast tissue and not in the milk. Breastfeeding may also help speed the treatment process. Your doctor may recommend that you undergo a surgical procedure called incision and drainage. During this procedure, the doctor will make a small incision to help drain any abscesses that have formed due to the infection.
- taking care to prevent irritation and cracking of the nipple
- frequent breast-feeding
- using a breast pump
- using a proper breast-feeding technique that allows for good latching by the infant
- weaning the baby over several weeks, instead of suddenly stopping breast-feeding