Table of Contents
Definition of Mastitis
Inflammation of the breast, typically due to bacterial infection. Mastitis usually begins as a combination of events: a blocked milk duct in the breast of a woman who is breastfeeding an infant and cracks or breaks in the skin, usually around the nipple, that allow bacteria to enter the milk duct.
Mastitis due to infection is less common in women who are not breastfeeding. Mastitis may also occur as a result of viral infection or become chronic for reasons the doctor cannot identify though are likely hormonal.
The symptoms of bacterial mastitis include pain, redness on the skin above the area of the infection, and swelling or hardness at the site of the infection. Many women also have fever, chills, bodywide muscle aches, and fatigue.
It is important for breastfeeding women to continue breastfeeding, as the infant’s sucking helps massage the blockage from the duct. Warm compresses or a heating pad to the breast also may help.
A course of treatment with an antibiotic medication generally results in rapid improvement of bacterial mastitis. The small amount of the antibiotic that enters the breast milk is not enough to affect the infant.
The doctor may recommend an analgesic medication to relieve pain and fever. A complication of bacterial mastitis is breast abscess, in which the infection forms a pocket within the breast tissue that requires minor surgery to open and drain, as well as a more extended course of antibiotics, so healing can take place.
|ANTIBIOTIC MEDICATIONS TO TREAT BACTERIAL MASTITIS|
Mastitis may also result from viral infection, most commonly as a result of the mumps virus. Nonspecific chronic mastitis sometimes occurs in a pattern that follows a woman’s menstrual cycle, suggesting it is hormonal in nature.
The diagnostic path for nonbacterial mastitis often includes mammogram (x-ray of the breasts) and sometimes biopsy of an area of inflammation to rule out breast cancer or other causes for the symptoms.
When such findings are negative, treatment is generally nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (nsaids) to relieve inflammation and pain. NSAIDs also influence the production and release of prostaglandins, hormonelike substances that fluctuate in the blood circulation during the menstrual cycle. Chronic mastitis is a common symptom of fibrocystic breast disease.
Page last reviewed: