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Mastitis: The Breast Infection you must know about

Mastitis

A breast infection usually results due to the invasion of breast by bacteria, resulting in inflammation, and is called as MASTITIS. Infections of the breast most commonly occur one to three months post-delivery, but can also occur in post- menopausal women. Mastitis occurs most commonly during the time of breastfeeding. It often tends to occur when bacteria enter through a crack in the nipple, when the baby breastfeeds. Engorgement and incomplete emptying of the best may worsen the symptoms further. Chronic mastitis occurs mostly in women who are not breastfeeding, and is seen commonly after the menopause.

The symptoms of breast infections, commonly noticed, are mentioned as follows:
  • Painful breast that might be accompanied by sores that do not heal.
  • Some patients may present with pustular ulcers, with occasional leakage of blood.
  • Affected breast feels hot when touched.
  • Red streaks might be present on the breast.
  • Cracked nipples
  • Nausea and body ache
Breast infections may be divided into various types:
  1. Central or subareolar infection-
  • It occurs when the milk ducts undergo infection or inflammation, leading to an abscess.
  • Most likely to develop in tobacco smokers.
  • Retraction of nipple or an unusual discharge from it may be present.
  1. Granulomatous lobular mastitis- 
  • It causes a painful mass to develop in the breast, which has no malignant tendency.
  • It is extremely hard to get treated with the help of antibiotics.
  1. Peripheral infection (non-lactating) –
  • It occurs most frequently in people already suffering from diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis etc.
  • Individuals having a history of breast injury or steroid intake are also more prone to develop this type of infection.
  • It usually causes an inflammation or a visible abscess on the breast.
  1. Skin infections, such as cellulitis-

Women with larger a breast size or those with a history of breast surgery or radiotherapy are more likely to get affected.

How to diagnose Breast Infection?
  • Physical examination plays a pivotal role in diagnosis of mastitis and a breast abscess
  • Ultrasound: In case of doubt whether a mass is due to a fluid-filled abscess or a solid mass such as a tumor, an ultrasound may be done. It helps in distinguishing between simple mastitis and abscess and also in diagnosing an abscess deep in the breast.
  • Culture: sample of breast milk or of material taken out of an abscess through a syringe, helps in determining the type of organism causing the infection and help in further treatment.
  • Mammogram and biopsy: for confirmatory diagnosis and ruling out the risk of cancer
Breast Infection Treatment
  • The underlying cause and the severity of the symptoms determine the treatment for a breast infection.
  • If case of a breast abscess incision and draining of the abscess may be needed along with a course of antibiotics if the infection is bacterial.
  • Rarely surgery might be necessary to remove a damaged duct to prevent infection.

Various ways that can be tried at home, in order to obtain some relief are:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Avoiding tight bras and wearing loose-fitting clothing.

In case of breastfeeding mothers suffering from infection, the following steps to reduce discomfort and minimize the likelihood of the infection coming back:

  • Trying out different positions while breastfeeding so that the breast can empty completely.
  • Gently massaging the areas of the breast that feel hard while breastfeeding.
  • Continuing to breastfeed unless a doctor says otherwise.
Breast Infection Prevention

Some women are more susceptible to develop breast infection than others, particularly those who are breastfeeding for the first time. One can take the following steps in order to prevent mastitis

  • Equally breastfeeding from both breasts.
  • Emptying the breasts completely in order to prevent engorgement and blocking of ducts.
  • Allowing cracked or sore nipples to air dry.
  • Preventing accumulation of moisture in breast pads or bras.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Hand washing, cleaning the nipples, keeping the baby clean promote a good hygiene.
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