The causes of a rash under your breast can range from natural skin responses to more serious disorders.
You may develop a rash under your breasts in a variety of instances due to a number of factors.
Below we’ll detail the main causes of rashes under the breasts, treatment options, and how to prevent the rashes from occurring.
- viral or bacterial infections such as shingles (viral) or yeast (bacterial)
- skin friction
- other skin conditions such as eczema
The warm, moist skin under your breasts is an ideal breeding ground for certain infections.
Ringworm has nothing to do with worms. It’s a type of fungal skin infection also known as tinea.
Ringworm appears as round, red patches of skin with a distinctive red ring.
It’s highly contagious and often spreads via shared towels, sheets, and showers. You can even get it from your pets.
Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription antifungal creams are effective in treating ringworm.
Candidiasis is a skin infection caused by Candida yeast. Yeast is a type of fungus.
Candidiasis results from the same yeast (or fungus) that causes vaginal yeast infections, oral thrush, and diaper rash. These infections often occur in babies, people with illnesses that affect their immune system, and people taking antibiotics.
Candida thrive in the moist, warm environment of skin folds, such as under the breasts.
It causes a rash that often develops uncomfortable blisters and small cracks. Like many other rashes, candidiasis can be itchy.
Prescription antifungal creams can help treat candidiasis. If the infection is more widespread, a doctor may prescribe antifungal medications taken by mouth. It’s also important to keep your skin dry. Learn more about candidiasis of the skin here.
Herpes zoster, lso known as shingles, is caused by the same virus as chickenpox (varicella). It’s known for causing a blistering, painful rash, along with tingling sensations on the affected areas of your skin.
If you’ve had chickenpox previously, you may be at risk of developing shingles later in life. Sometimes lesions may develop in the breast area — if you’re currently breastfeeding, it’s possible to pass on the shingles virus to your baby.
Treatment for shingles may include antiviral medications from a doctor, as well as OTC pain relievers. In most cases, shingles will clear within 2 to 4 weeks.
Cellulitis is a type of bacterial skin infection. When it affects the breast area, it’s called breast cellulitis. This type of cellulitis is more common in females who have recently had breast surgery or radiation therapy for breast cancer.
Symptoms of breast cellulitis may include a red, warm, and inflamed rash that spreads quickly. You may also experience a fever and chills.
Cellulitis may become life-threatening if not promptly diagnosed and treated. A doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics or provide them intravenously (IV) in more severe cases.
Are sex and gender the same thing?
People often use the terms sex and gender interchangeably, but they have different meanings:
- “Sex” refers to the physical characteristics that differentiate male, female, and intersex bodies.
- “Gender” refers to a person’s identity and how they feel inside. Examples include man, woman, nonbinary, agender, bigender, genderfluid, pangender, and trans. A person’s gender identity may be different from the sex they were assigned at birth.
Hives are red or skin-colored bumps that can become itchy. They can occur on any part of your skin.
They’re an allergic response to a range of substances, including:
It’s important to see a doctor to diagnose the underlying cause of your hives, because these may be symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. They may recommend topical or oral antihistamines to help treat your hives. These drugs block histamines, the natural chemical in your skin that causes hives.
If you get hives regularly, your doctor may recommend that you see an allergist. An allergist will determine what substances you’re allergic to so you can avoid the allergens in the future.
There are different autoimmune disorders that may cause a rash under your breast. Autoimmune disorders are chronic and can’t be cured, but you can manage the symptoms.
Patches of inflamed skin that itch severely are symptoms of eczema (atopic dermatitis). People with eczema can develop small, fluid-filled bumps that ooze and crust over.
On light skin, eczema often appears as red or pink lesions. It may appear dark brown, purple, or gray on darker skin. Over time, your skin can dry out and become irritated and itching before eczema flares up again.
Although you may get eczema anywhere on your body, it’s most common on the following areas:
There’s no cure for eczema, but you can manage it by moisturizing your skin with fragrance-free moisturizers. For severe cases, a doctor may also recommend cortisone creams or gels to control the itching.
Eczema symptoms may be made worse by:
- harsh soaps and detergents
It typically involves smooth, discolored patches of skin in the folds of your body. The condition often occurs under your breasts or in your armpits or groin area. Inverse psoriasis doesn’t usually cause the flaky skin plaques associated with other types of psoriasis.
Steroid creams and gels are the first-line treatment for inverse psoriasis. For more severe cases, a doctor may also recommend skin medications that suppress the immune system.
Pemphigus is a rare skin condition that leads to blistering. This autoimmune condition mainly occurs in older adults and can appear anywhere on the skin, including the breasts.
While there are several types of pemphigus, the
- Pemphigus foliaceus: This subtype affects your skin only.
- Pemphigus vulgaris: This affects your skin as well as mucous membranes, including those inside your mouth.
Pemphigus on the breasts can result in irritated patches of skin in the area.
The exact cause is unknown. While there’s no cure for pemphigus, treatment may involve corticosteroid creams and other immunosuppressive drugs to lessen symptoms and avoid remission.
Hailey-Hailey disease is a rare inherited disorder that results in a persistent, blistering rash.
This can occur under your breasts or in other areas such as your neck, between your buttocks, and in your armpits and groin.
The rash tends to come and go spontaneously. Over time, the blisters can become covered by a yellow crust. The rash may burn or itch. The lesions can ultimately cause the skin to crack.
People may use corticosteroid ointments and antibiotics to treat Hailey-Hailey disease. In more severe cases, a doctor may recommend stronger topical corticosteroid products or antibiotics.
If you have Hailey-Hailey disease, a doctor will advise you to avoid situations that make you sweat. For example, you shouldn’t exert yourself in hot weather or wear heavy clothing that doesn’t breathe.
Heat rash (malaria) occurs when your sweat glands become blocked, so you can’t sweat through the pores. Instead, the sweat pools under your skin, causing inflammation and a rash.
Heat rash mainly happens when you sweat more than normal because of heat and humidity. It usually clears up without treatment.
Cooling off under a fan or in an air conditioned space can help, as well as taking a cool bath. Severe cases may require a topical steroid cream from a doctor.
Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic skin condition that causes lesions and inflammation in your sweat glands. It primarily occurs due to blocked follicles and a resulting infection.
Hidradenitis suppurativa can occur under your breasts and in other skin folds such as your armpits, groin, and anal regions. It’s known for causing recurring boils and acne-like lesions that can be painful. These lesions can also burst and scar.
The cause of this condition isn’t known, and there’s currently no cure. A doctor may recommend a combination of measures that can help alleviate and prevent symptoms, such as topical treatments like antibiotics, as well as oral treatments, including steroids and hormonal therapies.
Inflammatory breast cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form of rapidly spreading cancer. Symptoms include:
- skin discoloration
- pitted skin that feels and looks like an orange peel
- heaviness of the affected breast
- an inverted nipple, which points inward rather than outward
Although this type of breast cancer is rare, it’s important to see a doctor promptly if you have these symptoms.
Contact dermatitis is another type of eczema that can cause a red, itchy, inflamed rash. Unlike atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis isn’t hereditary, and it only develops when your skin comes into contact with certain substances such as chemicals, fragrances, and irritants.
It’s important to see a doctor for a contact dermatitis diagnosis so they may rule out other conditions, such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. Treatment for contact dermatitis may involve hydrocortisone cream or short-term oral steroid medications.
Avoiding certain substances can also help. If you experience chronic contact dermatitis under your breast area, consider using hypoallergenic soaps when you bathe, as well as laundry detergents that don’t contain any fragrances or dyes.
Intertrigo is a common inflammatory skin condition that primarily develops in skin folds. This includes the area underneath your breasts. While intertrigo may develop at any age, it’s most common in people with diabetes and obesity.
Symptoms of intertrigo include itchiness, pain, and burning within skin folds. A doctor can help differentiate this condition from others that have similar symptoms, such as a bacterial skin infection.
Treatment for intertrigo may include topical or oral steroids to decrease inflammation. Keeping your skin folds dry and using antiperspirant can also help — you may experience more frequent flareups in hot and humid weather.
Known for large, oval-shaped rashes, pityriasis rosea is a common skin condition that mostly affects people between 10 and 35 years of age. The patches may develop small bumps, with the rash itself often itchy.
It can take at least 5 months for pityriasis rosea rashes to clear, with come cases doing so on their own. If a doctor diagnoses you with this skin condition, they may recommend antihistamines or mild steroid creams to help decrease itchiness as the rashes heal.
Consider seeing a doctor if you have a rash under the breasts, especially if it lasts longer than several days. They can help accurately diagnose the type of rash you have, as well as recommend the right treatments if needed.
You should also see a doctor if you’re developing signs of an infection or severe allergy. Possible symptoms that warrant medical attention may include:
- a rash that appears suddenly or is spreading
- a widespread rash that extends across a large area of your body
- pain or blistering
- a red streak extending out of the rash
- rash that’s weepy or leaking fluid
A rash under the breast is rarely anything more than an annoyance that causes discomfort. While the exact timeline varies by cause, most rashes may take several days or weeks to completely heal.
Many treatments will involve keeping the affected area clean, dry, and free from irritants. Depending on the underlying causes of your rash, doctors may recommend anti-inflammatory or steroid creams, oral antibiotics, and other treatments.
You may be able to prevent rashes from forming under your breasts.
Maintaining thorough personal hygiene may help reduce the risk of fungal infection. Keeping the skin under your breasts clean and dry can help prevent yeast-based rashes. Regular washing and not sharing towels or clothes may also help prevent ringworm.
You can also reduce the risk of allergic reactions by avoiding your known irritants and prevent heat rash by wearing loose-fitting clothes and staying cool in the heat.
If you have a chronic rash under the breast that doesn’t improve despite lifestyle changes, see a doctor for further evaluation and next steps.