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Breast Infections and Inflammations

What is lactational mastitis?

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

Treatment for lactational mastitis

Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

Your healthcare 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 a pus-filled infection (abscess). This is a more serious condition that may require drainage.

What is nonlactational mastitis?

Nonlactational mastitis is similar to lactational mastitis, but it occurs in women who are not breastfeeding. In some cases, this condition happens in women who have had lumpectomies followed by radiation therapy, in women with diabetes, or in women whose immune systems are depressed.

This condition is rare. But it is usually accompanied by high fever and headache and treated with antibiotics. Talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment.

What is chronic subareolar abscess?

Chronic subareolar abscess is a breast infection that does not happen often. Surgery may be needed to stop this repeating infection. See your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment.

Medical Reviewers:

  • Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP
  • Horowitz, Diane, MD