Mastitis is an infection in the tissue of one or both of the mammary glands inside the breasts. It usually affects women who are producing milk and breast-feeding. There is often a hard, sore spot inside the breast. This can result from a blocked milk duct or because bacteria enter the breast through a break in the skin.
Mastitis that occurs during breast-feeding is also known as lactation mastitis. It is thought to affect around 10 percent of all breast-feeding mothers. However, study results vary significantly, from a very small percentage of cases up to 33 percent.
It often develops during the first 3 months after giving birth, but it can occur up to 2 years later. Some mothers mistakenly wean their infants when they develop mastitis. In most cases, breast-feeding should continue during mastitis. Mastitis usually only affects one breast. Sometimes, it can affect women who are not lactating, but it is uncommon.
In very rare cases, it can affect men. Here are some key points about mastitis. More detail and supporting information is in the main article. The first line of treatment is self-help remedies, such as ensuring that the breast is drained properly during feeds. A doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.
They will also recommend techniques to treat the blocked duct, if this is the cause. Some studies suggest that antibiotics do not help and may not be appropriate during breast-feeding.
Non-medicinal remedies should be tried first. If complications occur, and the condition is progressing quickly and looks likely to become more serious, hospitalization and antibiotic treatment may be recommended. Ask the doctor about treating symptoms of pain and fever with acetaminophen, or Tylenol. Mastitis when breast-feeding usually results from a blocked or plugged duct. The blockage causes milk stasis, when the milk that is produced does not come out during feeding and remains in the breast.
Milk ducts can also become blocked because of pressure on the breast caused by tight clothing, for example. This later becomes a plugged duct. Anything that stops the milk from being properly expressed will usually result in milk stasis, and this often leads to milk duct blockages. Bacteria do not generally thrive in fresh human milk. However, if the milk ducts are blocked, and the milk stagnates, infection is more likely. Women who are not lactating, in other words, not producing milk and not breast-feeding, may develop mastitis.
This is not common and is referred to as periductal mastitis. Those who do develop non-lactating infectious mastitis tend to be regular smokers and in their late 20s to early 30s. Experts believe that smoking may damage the milk ducts, making these more susceptible to infection. If nipple piercing is done at non-professional, unregistered piercing studios, this may increase the risk of mastitis.
If the problems persist, a range of support groups can help. They offer advice from certified lactation consultants.
La Leche League local meetings offer a chance to meet with other mothers. Watching for plugged ducts in the future is important after healing, because plugged ducts and mastitis tend to re-occur. Steps can be taken to prevent mastitis from developing when a plugged duct is felt. When the duct releases, the milk may come out in a rush, but relief will be immediate.
If a duct has been plugged for a while, the milk may come out thicker, more like a piece of cheese. The milk itself will not be contaminated. It is not a good idea to quit breast-feeding when there is a blocked duct, as this can lead to engorgement as well as mastitis. Rest is important because it helps improve the immune function, so that it can better fight any budding infection. It is important to discuss any breast-feeding concerns with a health professional as soon as possible, to prevent problems developing.
Mastitis is fairly easy to diagnose. A doctor will perform a physical examination and ask about symptoms. When symptoms are severe, or if the woman does not respond to treatment, the doctor may take a small sample of breast milk for testing. If a breast-feeding problem is suspected as the cause, the woman may be asked to demonstrate how she breast-feeds. It is important for the mother not to feel she is being blamed or judged. Breast-feeding often requires practice to perfect.
Inflammatory breast cancer , a rare form of breast cancer, can also have similar symptoms of redness and swelling. In some rare cases, a biopsy may be taken to rule out breast cancer. Pain, fever, inflammation , and any persistent difficulty with breast-feeding should be discussed with a doctor.
Symptoms Treatment Causes Home remedies Prevention Diagnosis Complications Mastitis is an infection in the tissue of one or both of the mammary glands inside the breasts. Fast facts on mastitis Here are some key points about mastitis.
Mastitis rarely affects more than one breast at a time. In very rare cases, mastitis can affect males. Mastitis often starts with a blocked milk duct. Symptoms can include chills, fatigue , and a swollen breast.
Share on Pinterest Mastitis occurs in around 10 percent of breast-feeding mothers. Home remedies. Share on Pinterest A doctor will diagnose mastitis upon physical examination. Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph. Latest news Does increasing soda prices discourage people from drinking it? Through my eyes: Surviving encephalitis. Letter from the Editor: The importance of accurate reporting. Coronavirus: Scientists could repurpose drugs to treat infection.