Breast Infection or Breast Mastitis

What Is a Breast Infection?

Breast Infection is also called Mastitis. Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast tissue that may or may not also include an infection.

Mastitis is a condition that results in

  • Severe breast pain,
  • Breast redness and
  • Breast swelling.

Breast Infection is easily treatable, resulting in quick resolution and full recovery in almost all cases.

Who Does Breast Infection or Mastitis Affect?

Breast Infection or Mastitis usually affects women who are breastfeeding an infant, often within the first three months. It can also occur in non-breast feeding women and in men.

How Does Breast Infection or Mastitis Occur?

Breast Infection or Mastitis occurs when breast milk causes clogging of one of the many milk ducts.

In addition to this, if the infant sucks or bites the nipple hard enough to break skin during feeding, bacteria from the skin can also be introduced into the milk ducts.

Ultimately, milk stasis allowing the growth of bacteria results in mastitis.

Breast Infection or Mastitis When Breast-Feeding?

Breast Infection or Mastitis is caused by milk stasis, due to:

  • Improper feeding technique
  • Infant facing sucking problems
  • Missed or infrequent feeding, leading to building up of milk in breasts.

What Are the Symptoms of a Breast Infection?

The most common symptoms include:

  • Tenderness over the affected breast
  • A swollen area over the breast which may be red and warm to the touch
  • A sensation of a breast lump on the breast
  • Discharge from the nipple, white in colour or with streaks of blood
  • High fever of 101°F or more
  • Lethargy

Types of Breast Infection or Mastitis

There are two main types of mastitis:

  • Lactation Mastitis: Breast infection as a result of breastfeeding
  • Periductal Mastitis: Breast infection occurring in non-breastfeeding women due to a blocked duct

What Are the Stages of Mastitis?

There are no stages, but the severity of the mastitis and symptoms is gradient and depends on how progressed the infection is.

How Is Mastitis Diagnosed?

The diagnosis for Breast Infection or Mastitis is made by taking a complete history and a complete physical examination, including a breast examination.

The doctor might also recommend a mammogram or an ultrasound scan of the infected breast. Additionally, the doctor may also request a sample of the patient’s breast milk, for lab testing and determining the presence of bacteria.

How Is Breast Infection or Mastitis Treated?

Breast Infection or Mastitis is very manageable if diagnosed early. The treatment includes prescribing a 10-day course of antibiotics and follow-up with the doctor.

The doctor might also prescribe over the counter pain relief medication, to help with the tenderness and pain. The patient is advised to continue breastfeeding throughout, as it can actually help clear the infection. Staying hydrated and resting also aids in quick recovery.

To prevent mastitis from occurring again, the patient is taught better breastfeeding techniques and encouraged to pump their breasts in case of long duration between feedings. Wearing tight-fitting bras and clothes are also discouraged.

What If Breast Infection or Mastitis Is Untreated?

If a Breast Infection is left untreated or improperly managed, Breast Infection or Mastitis can result in severe pain and tenderness. It can also advance into an abscess formation full of pus in the breast, sometimes requiring surgical draining, but can often be managed by needle aspiration under ultrasound guidance.

  • Breast Surgeons of Australia and NewZealand
  • The University of Sydney
  • Royal North Shore Hospital
  •  Australian Society Of Breast Disease
  • Mater Hospital A facility of ST Vincent's Health Australia
  • Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
Breast & Surgical Oncology At The Poche Centre

40 Rocklands Rd,
North Sydney, NSW 2060

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  • Fax: (02) 9954 9938
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