Mastitis (Breast Infection)


Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast, usually caused by an infection.Mastitis most commonly occurs in mothers who are breast-feeding. It typically occurs within the first few weeks of breast-feeding.

Mastitis sometimes occurs in women who are not breast-feeding. Bacteria get into the milk ducts of the breast to cause the infection. This may be through a crack or sore in the nipple or from a nipple piercing.

What are the symptoms of mastitis?

Mastitis causes an area of hardness, pain, redness and swelling in the breast. It often starts in a section of breast near to the nipple. You may also develop a high temperature and feel unwell, with flu-like symptoms.

What is the treatment for mastitis?

Infective mastitis is usually treated with a course of an antibiotic. However, a mild case may go without any treatment. If you notice a tender swollen area in a breast when you are breast-feeding, it may be a blocked milk duct or a developing mastitis. If your symptoms become worse you should see a doctor. After talking to you and examining you, they may prescribe an antibiotic. The infection will usually clear within a few days of starting the antibiotic.

Are there any possible complications?

Occasionally, an abscess may form inside an infected section of breast. An abscess is a collection of pus that causes a firm, red, tender lump. If the skin over the abscess is not broken, the pus can be drained with a needle and syringe. If the skin is broken it may be better to make a small cut to let the pus drain out.

Some other points about mastitis

If you are breast-feeding, continue to feed from the affected breast. This helps the milk to continue flowing and stops the breast from becoming engorged and making things worse.

After each feed, try to express any remaining milk from the affected breast. Feeding from an infected breast does not harm the baby. If the baby swallows bacteria from an infected breast, the bacteria will be killed by the acid in the baby's stomach.

You can take simple painkillers (such as paracetamol or ibuprofen) to ease pain and reduce fever. Cold packs can also be quite soothing when placed on the breast.

A breast-feeding baby may refuse to feed from the affected breast, as the taste of the milk may change a little. If this occurs, feed from the other breast. Do remember to express the milk (that your baby has refused to take) from the affected breast.

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