A breast infection occurs in the tissue of the breasts called the parenchymal tissue. It is usually caused by a bacteria called staphylococcus auereus, which means it is a type of staph infection. Staph bacteria are found on normal skin, but if they multiply too much due to an immune system deficiency, or enter through the skin of the breast into the tissue, they can cause an infection. Often, women who are breastfeeding will get a breast infection due to cracks and breaks in the nipples caused by nursing. There are many potential symptoms of breast infections, and many breast infections will clear up on their own. But see your doctor immediately if you suspect an infection.
Breast pain or discomfort is one of the most common symptoms of a breast infection. This is caused by an excess of the staph bacteria in the tissue, which pushes on the milk ducts. The pain may be simple discomfort, or it may be accompanied by tenderness when you touch the breast, as well as warmth in the breasts. The pain may also be accompanied by itchiness in the breasts.
Lump or Swelling
A breast infection may also cause a lump or swelling in the breast. The lump may be painful. The swelling may be confined to one side of the breast only. In addition, the swelling and lump may be accompanied by redness. Breast lumps can also be indicative of breast cancer, but cancerous lumps usually do not have associated pain and swelling. The exception to this is a rare form of breast cancer, called inflammatory breast cancer, which may result in swelling of the breast and breast pain. If you are experiencing a lump accompanied by swelling and pain, the best course of action is to consult your doctor, who can tell you whether the symptoms are caused by a breast infection or breast cancer.
Breast infections can also cause symptoms associated with the nipple. If the sensation or texture of the nipple changes, it may be a sign of a breast infection. If you experience unusual discharge from the nipple, that also may be a sign of a breast infection. This unusual discharge may be clear or it might contain pus. Discharge from the nipple is also a sign of inflammatory breast cancer, as well as of a breast infection, so it is essential to visit a doctor.
Cracks and breaks in the nipple are also one of the causes of breast infections, in addition to one of the symptoms. If you notice cracks and breaks, this may indicate that you are susceptible to a breast infection or that your other symptoms are caused by an infection.
Other Signs of Infection
The lymph nodes under the arm may become enlarged, swollen or tender. The lymph nodes, called the axillary lymph nodes, are located near the breast under the armpit. The affected lymph nodes will be on the same side as the infected breast. You can usually feel and/or see the enlarged lymph nodes.
A breast infection may also be accompanied by a persistent, low-grade fever.
Breast infections are common in breastfeeding women, and so no tests may be necessary if you have an infection while breastfeeding. However if you are not breastfeeding, or your infection persists, tests may be required to diagnose the breast infection and rule out more serious illness. Tests include a mammogram or a biopsy to test for potential cancerous cells.
A breast infection is treated by applying heat to the breast for fifteen to twenty minutes four times daily. The heat should be a moist heat. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics. If you are breastfeeding, you may be encouraged to pump breast milk instead of allowing your child to nurse, until the infection is resolved.
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