Breast Infections and Inflammations

What is lactational mastitis?

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The most common type of breast infection is lactational mastitis, which occurs when a woman is breastfeeding. The nipples become cracked and sore, allowing bacteria from the baby's mouth to enter the ducts and rapidly multiply in the milk. Occasionally, infection also arises from a blocked milk duct. In both cases, the breast becomes hard, reddened, hot, and painful.

Treatment for lactational mastitis

Specific treatment for lactational mastitis will be determined by your health care provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Your health care provider may suggest trying to unblock the duct with warm compresses and massage. He or she may also prescribe antibiotics and an analgesic for pain. In some cases, lactational mastitis progresses and forms an abscess, a more serious condition that may require drainage.

What is nonlactational mastitis?

Nonlactational mastitis is similar to lactational mastitis but occurs in nonlactating women. In some cases, this condition occurs in women who have had lumpectomies followed by radiation therapy, in women with diabetes, or in women whose immune systems are depressed.

While this condition is rare, it is usually accompanied by high fever and headache and treated with antibiotics. Consult your health care provider for a diagnosis and treatment.

What is chronic subareolar abscess?

Chronic subareolar abscess is a breast infection that occurs infrequently. Surgery may be needed to stop this repeating infection. Consult your health care provider for a diagnosis and treatment.

Online Medical Reviewer: Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 5/14/2013
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