Last updated date: 21-Mar-2023
Originally Written in English
Mastitis: What It Is and How to Treat It
Mastitis is a common condition that causes inflammation of the breast tissue, usually due to an infection. It most often affects women who are breastfeeding and is characterized by breast pain, swelling, warmth, and redness. Other symptoms may include fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms. Treatment typically involves antibiotics to clear the infection and pain relief measures to manage symptoms. In some cases, temporary cessation of breastfeeding may be necessary.
What is Mastitis?
Mastitis is a condition in which the breast tissue becomes inflamed, often as a result of a bacterial infection. It can cause breast pain, swelling, warmth, and redness, as well as flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills. Mastitis is most common in women who are breastfeeding, but it can also occur in women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding. Treatment typically involves antibiotics and pain relief medication.
Who might get Mastitis?
Mastitis is a breast infection that most commonly occurs in women who are breastfeeding. It can also occur in women who are not breastfeeding and in men, although it is much less common in these populations.
What are the types of Mastitis?
There are two types of mastitis:
- Non-infectious mastitis: This type of mastitis is caused by factors such as blocked milk ducts, engorgement, and injury to the breast.
- Infectious mastitis: This type of mastitis is caused by bacterial infection and is more common in lactating women. The most common bacteria responsible for this type of mastitis is Staphylococcus aureus.
Does mastitis increase your risk of Breast cancer?
There is limited evidence to suggest that mastitis may be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. However, more research is needed to establish a definitive link between the two conditions. It is important to note that the majority of women who develop mastitis do not go on to develop breast cancer. Other factors such as age, genetics, and lifestyle are more significant risk factors for breast cancer. If you have concerns about your risk of breast cancer or mastitis, it is recommended that you speak with a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and personalized recommendations.
Is it safe to continue Breastfeeding when you have mastitis?
Mastitis is an infection in the breast tissue that can cause pain, swelling, and warmth. It is generally considered safe to continue breastfeeding while having mastitis, as long as it is done correctly. In fact, breastfeeding can help remove bacteria and prevent clogged milk ducts, which can lead to mastitis. However, it's important to make sure that the baby is latching on correctly and draining the affected breast, and to seek medical treatment if you have a fever or worsening symptoms. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, it is generally safe to continue breastfeeding while taking them.
What causes Mastitis?
Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that causes breast pain, swelling, warmth, and redness. It typically occurs in women who are breastfeeding, but it can also occur in women who are not breastfeeding.
The main cause of mastitis is a blocked milk duct, which can happen when milk is not emptied from the breast regularly. Bacteria can then grow in the milk and cause an infection. Other factors that can increase the risk of mastitis include cracked or sore nipples, a weakened immune system, stress, and fatigue.
In some cases, mastitis can be caused by a staph infection. Staph bacteria are normally found on the skin, but they can enter the breast through a crack in the nipple and cause an infection.
It is important to seek prompt medical treatment for mastitis, as untreated mastitis can lead to more serious complications, such as an abscess or a breast infection. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat mastitis, and supportive measures, such as warm compresses, pain relief, and continued breastfeeding, can help to relieve symptoms.
What are the symptoms of Mastitis?
The symptoms of mastitis can include:
Breast pain and tenderness
The affected breast may feel heavy, swollen, and painful to the touch.
The affected breast may appear larger and feel warm to the touch.
Redness and warmth
The skin over the affected area may appear red and feel warm.
The nipple may secrete pus or a thick, yellowish discharge.
A fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher is a common symptom of mastitis.
Some women may experience fatigue and a general feeling of malaise.
Some women may experience symptoms similar to the flu, such as chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general feeling of being unwell.
How is Mastitis diagnosed?
Mastitis is usually diagnosed based on a woman's symptoms and a physical examination of the breast.
The healthcare provider may also take the following steps to diagnose mastitis:
- Medical history: The healthcare provider will ask about the symptoms, including how long they have been present and any other related health problems.
- Physical examination: The healthcare provider will examine the affected breast, looking for signs of redness, swelling, and tenderness. They may also check for lumps or other abnormalities.
- Culture of the discharge: In some cases, the healthcare provider may take a sample of the discharge from the affected breast and send it to a laboratory to identify the type of bacteria causing the infection.
- Blood tests: The healthcare provider may perform a blood test to check for an elevated white blood cell count, which can indicate an infection.
If mastitis is suspected, the healthcare provider will usually prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. In some cases, an abscess may need to be drained, and in severe cases, hospitalization may be required.
How is Mastitis managed or treated?
The management and treatment of mastitis typically involve the following steps:
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat the infection. It is important to complete the entire course of antibiotics, even if the symptoms improve before the medication is finished.
- Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can help to relieve the pain and swelling associated with mastitis.
- Warm compresses: Placing a warm compress on the affected breast can help to relieve pain and improve milk flow.
- Drainage of an abscess: If an abscess is present, it may need to be drained. This can be done through a small incision or by using a needle to remove the pus.
- Continuation of breastfeeding: Women with mastitis are encouraged to continue breastfeeding, as it can help to improve milk flow and relieve symptoms. If breastfeeding is painful, a lactation consultant can help to ensure that the baby is positioned and latched on properly.
- Hydration: Drinking plenty of water can help to flush out toxins and improve overall health.
- Rest and stress reduction: Getting enough rest and managing stress levels can help to improve the body's ability to fight the infection.
It is important to seek prompt medical attention if you suspect you have mastitis, as untreated mastitis can lead to more serious complications, such as an abscess or a breast infection. Your healthcare provider will be able to diagnose mastitis and recommend appropriate treatment, which may include antibiotics and supportive measures, such as warm compresses, pain relief, and continued breastfeeding.
Medications for Mastitis
Medications commonly used to treat mastitis include:
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat the bacterial infection that causes mastitis. Common antibiotics used to treat mastitis include penicillin, cephalexin, and dicloxacillin. The specific antibiotic prescribed will depend on the type of bacteria causing the infection.
- Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help to relieve the pain and swelling associated with mastitis.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs: Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, can help to reduce swelling and relieve pain.
It is important to follow the dosing instructions provided by your healthcare provider, and to continue taking antibiotics for the full course of treatment, even if symptoms improve before the medication is finished.
If you are breastfeeding, it is important to let your healthcare provider know, as some antibiotics can be transmitted to the baby through breast milk. Your healthcare provider will be able to recommend an appropriate antibiotic that is safe to take while breastfeeding.
What are the complications of Mastitis?
Untreated or poorly managed mastitis can lead to the following complications:
- Abscess: An abscess is a collection of pus that can develop in the affected breast. Abscesses can cause severe pain and swelling and may need to be drained.
- Recurrent mastitis: Mastitis can recur if the underlying cause is not treated or if the infection is not completely cleared.
- Septicemia: Septicemia is a serious condition that occurs when the bacteria from an infection spread to the bloodstream. This can cause a widespread infection and can be life-threatening.
- Difficulty breastfeeding: Mastitis can cause pain and swelling in the affected breast, making breastfeeding difficult and painful. In some cases, women may need to stop breastfeeding temporarily while they receive treatment for mastitis.
- Reduced milk supply: Mastitis can cause a reduction in milk supply, which can be temporary or permanent. Women who experience a reduction in milk supply may need to supplement with formula or use a breast pump to maintain their milk supply.
- Scarring: In severe cases of mastitis, scarring of the breast tissue may occur, which can cause a permanent reduction in milk supply and changes in the appearance of the breast.
It is important to seek prompt medical attention if you suspect you have mastitis, as untreated mastitis can lead to more serious complications, such as an abscess or a breast infection. Your healthcare provider will be able to diagnose mastitis and recommend appropriate treatment to prevent the development of complications.
How can I prevent Mastitis?
Here are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing mastitis:
- Breastfeed regularly: Breastfeeding regularly and ensuring that the baby is positioned and latched on correctly can help to prevent milk stasis and reduce the risk of mastitis.
- Alternate breasts: Alternating breasts when breastfeeding can help to ensure that all milk ducts are emptied, reducing the risk of milk stasis.
- Express milk: If you are unable to breastfeed or if you are away from your baby, using a breast pump to express milk can help to prevent milk stasis and reduce the risk of mastitis.
- Avoid tight clothing: Wearing tight clothing, such as underwire bras, can cause pressure on the breasts and increase the risk of mastitis. Wearing loose-fitting clothing and comfortable bras can help to prevent this.
- Manage stress: High levels of stress can interfere with milk production and increase the risk of mastitis. Practicing stress-management techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or exercise, can help to reduce stress levels.
- Take care of yourself: Getting enough rest, eating a healthy diet, and staying hydrated can help to keep your body healthy and reduce the risk of mastitis.
- Seek treatment promptly: If you suspect you have mastitis, it is important to seek prompt medical attention. Early treatment can help to prevent the development of complications and reduce the risk of recurrence.
By following these steps, you can reduce your risk of developing mastitis and maintain good breast health. If you have concerns or questions about your breastfeeding experience, it is a good idea to speak with a lactation consultant or your healthcare provider.
In conclusion, mastitis is a common condition that affects women who are breastfeeding. It is caused by a bacterial infection that results in inflammation and swelling of the breast tissue. Symptoms of mastitis can include pain, redness, warmth, and swelling in the affected breast, as well as flu-like symptoms, such as fever and body aches.
Diagnosis of mastitis is made based on symptoms and a physical examination of the affected breast. Treatment typically involves antibiotics to clear the bacterial infection, pain relievers to relieve pain, and rest to help the body recover. Women who are breastfeeding may need to stop temporarily while they receive treatment, and they should continue taking antibiotics for the full course of treatment, even if symptoms improve before the medication is finished.
Untreated or poorly managed mastitis can lead to serious complications, such as an abscess, recurrent mastitis, septicemia, difficulty breastfeeding, reduced milk supply, and scarring. To reduce the risk of developing mastitis, women should breastfeed regularly, alternate breasts when breastfeeding, express milk if necessary, avoid tight clothing, manage stress, take care of themselves, and seek prompt treatment if they suspect they have mastitis.
If you have concerns about mastitis or your breastfeeding experience, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider or a lactation consultant for guidance and support.