Breast abscesses can occur as a result of untreated Mastitis, which is an infection of the breast. A pocket in any part of the body with the collection of pus is called an Abscess. A breast abscess refers to painful, and swollen pus-filled lumps that form in the skin of the breast.
Breast Abscesses are common in women who are breastfeeding, but they can affect any woman aged between 15 to 45 years. It is very important to see a health practitioner to treat abscesses to prevent recurring infections.
Symptoms of Breast Abscess
An abscess can look like breast cancer or an infected cyst. The most common symptoms of breast abscesses are:
- Painful, swollen, and hot red mass on the breast
- Presence of nipple duct opening
- Chills and fever
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sometimes you might notice an inverted nipple
- Nipple drainage
- Less milk production
- Discharge from the nipple
Causes of Breast Abscess
- Breast Abscesses are often caused because of bacterial infections. The bacteria responsible for this infection are Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus.
- In lactating mothers, these bacteria can easily enter their breasts through the crack in their nipples or areolas.
- Mastitis can occur in nursing mothers when there is a blockage in their milk ducts. If mastitis is not treated properly, then it will progress as an abscess.
- Breast Abscess can also occur in women who are not breastfeeding if they have injured breast skin, cracked or pierced nipples, undergone a breast implant surgery, or have diabetes and a low immune system.
- It is not a hereditary disease and does not spread from one person to another. It also doesn’t pose any risk of infection to new-born infants.
Risk Factors for Breast Abscess
The factors which increase the chances of infection in breastfeeding women are
- Very tight bras can put pressure on milk ducts
- Lack of consistent feeding schedule
- Missing out on breastfeeding sessions
- Depression and anxiety in new mothers
- Weaning the baby from breastfeeding in a very short time
The risk factors of breast abscesses in women who are not breastfeeding includes
- Being obese
- Previous history of breast abscess
- Inflammatory breast cancer
- Women in the childbearing age
Diagnosis of Breast Abscess
The breast abscess can be diagnosed by physical examinations and through some tests.
- Ultrasound may be done to check whether the mass is caused by a tumor or by an abscess.
- Breast milk or pus inside the abscess is taken through a syringe to examine the type of organism that is causing the infection. This helps the doctor in deciding the antibiotic for the treatment.
- Breast biopsy or mammogram is done on the women who are not breastfeeding, or on the women who do not respond to the treatment, because a rare type of breast cancer can produce the symptoms of mastitis.
Treatment for Breast Abscess
- If the mastitis is found early, oral antibiotics can be used to cure the infection. Your doctor will prescribe the specific antibiotic based on your allergies and which is safe to use while breastfeeding.
- In the presence of an abscess, the pus should be drained. The doctor can do this procedure either with a needle and syringe or by using a small incision. Anesthesia might be administered to you to reduce the pain.
- In case of a deep abscess, surgical drainage in the operating room is required.
- In non-breastfeeding women, recurrent or chronic abscess is a serious problem. They should closely follow up with their doctor to prevent any major complications.
The Road to Recovery
In 40% to 50% of cases, the breast abscesses can come back. So, you should never miss the recheck-up visits with your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics can prevent the need for surgery.
- Consume the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor.
- Watch closely for any signs of chills or fever. Immediate physician attention is required in such cases.
- Visit your doctor if you develop a high fever, increase in redness, swelling, vomiting, or pain in the breast area.
- Closely follow-up with your doctor to make sure the infection has completely gone away. If the abscess develops again, you might require IV antibiotics or surgery.
How to Prevent Breast Abscess?
Lactating women are more susceptible to breast infections and sometimes it is unavoidable. But following some good hygiene practices can reduce the risk of infection.
- To prevent any engorgement or blocked ducts, empty the breasts completely.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes and allow the sore or cracked nipples to dry in the air.
- Apply moisturizer to the nipples to cover the cracked nipples. This can avoid the entry of bacteria into that area.
- Breastfeeding should be done equally from both breasts.
- Consult a lactation specialist to know the proper breastfeeding techniques. Poor breastfeeding methods can lead to sore breasts.
- Drink plenty of fluids and water to prevent dehydration.
- Follow proper hygiene routines like frequent washing of your hands and cleaning the nipples before and after breastfeeding.
- Avoid smoking or other tobacco products.
- Maintain a proper healthy weight.
Message from Bliss Naturals
If the breast abscess is not given proper care and treatment, it may lead to serious complications like scarring, chronic pain, recurrent episodes, disfigurement, and organ failure. A deep breast abscess can prevent the breastfeeding women from continuing to nurse. So, do not ignore the symptoms and consult your doctor within 24 hours to avoid these complications. Strictly follow the treatment plan advised by your health professional and do miss the follow-up visits to reduce the risk of serious medical issues.