Mastitis (patient information)
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Mastitis is an infection in the tissue of the breast.
What are the symptoms of Mastitis?
- Breast enlargement on one side only
- Breast lump
- Breast pain
- Fever and flu-like symptoms including nausea and vomiting
- Nipple discharge (may contain pus)
- Nipple sensation changes
- Swelling, tenderness, redness, and warmth in breast tissue
- Tender or enlarged lymph nodes in armpit on the same side
What causes Mastitis?
The infection takes place in the fatty tissue of the breast and causes swelling. This swelling pushes on the milk ducts. The result is pain and lumps in the infected breast.
Who is at highest risk?
Mastitis usually occur in women who are breastfeeding. Mastitis that are not related to breastfeeding might be a rare form of breast cancer.
When to seek urgent medical care?
Call your health care provider if:
- Any portion of the breast tissue becomes reddened, tender, swollen, or hot
- You are breastfeeding and develop a high fever
- The lymph nodes in the armpit become tender or swollen
Breastfeeding women are usually not tested. However, an exam is often helpful to confirm the diagnosis and rule out complications such as an abscess.
Self-care may include applying moist heat to the infected breast tissue for 15 to 20 minutes four times a day.
Antibiotic medications are usually very effective in treating a breast infection. You are encouraged to continue to breastfeed or to pump to relieve breast engorgement from milk production while receiving treatment.
Where to find medical care for Mastitis?
What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?
The condition usually clears quickly with antibiotic therapy.
In severe infections, an abscess may develop. Abscesses need to be drained, either as an office procedure or with surgery. Women with abscesses may be told to temporarily stop breastfeeding.
The following may help reduce the risk of Mastitis:
- Careful nipple care to prevent irritation and cracking
- Feeding often and pumping milk to prevent engorgement of the breast
- Proper breastfeeding technique with good latching by the baby
- Weaning slowly, over several weeks, rather than abruptly stopping breastfeeding
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