The most common cause of tender breasts in women is the menstrual cycle. Breast tenderness that is associated with menstruation is cyclic and often precedes menstruation. Right before your period, your breasts may become slightly swollen, tender and more sensitive due to hormones that are enlarging your milk ducts. These symptoms often disappear a few days before the onset of your period.
A woman's breasts may also become temporarily tender just after ovulation. This is due to the temporary increase in hormones in the body that are occasioned by the releasing of the egg.
A pregnant woman's breasts will become swollen and tender early in her pregnancy due to the enlarging of her milk ducts. Tender breasts are one of the first signs of pregnancy and can occur as early as one or two weeks after conception. If your tender breasts are accompanied or followed by a missed period, nausea and enlargement of the areola, then you should take a home pregnancy test or visit your doctor.
Tender breasts also accompany lactation. When your breasts become engorged with milk, they will feel swollen and tender. However, if your breast tenderness turns to pain and excessive swelling in one or both breasts, you should see your doctor as this may be a symptom of mastitis (a common breast infection in lactating women)
Tender breasts can be caused by a variety of medications. The most common culprits are birth control pills and hormone replacement drugs. These drugs cause breast tenderness because they change the amount of progesterone and estrogen in your body. This may be a normal side effect of the drug that you are taking or a sign that your dosage or type of birth control or hormone replacement needs to be changed or adjusted.
You should also ask your doctor about the cause of your tender breasts if you are taking antidepressants or other psychiatric medications or anabolic steroids as these drugs often feature tender breasts as a side effect.
Tender breasts can be a natural part of puberty in both boys and girls. This tenderness is caused by the development of new breast tissue and fluctuating hormones. This pain or tenderness may be sporadic or ongoing and will cease when the breast tissue stops growing and hormones normalize.
In older women, tender breasts can be one of the first signs of the onset of menopause. During perimenopause (the earliest stage of menopause), breasts may become even more swollen and tender during the remaining menstrual cycles due to changing estrogen levels in the body. This tenderness will likely continue through menopause but diminish shortly afterward (unless you are taking hormone replacement therapy).
Fibrocystic breasts occur in 50 percent of women and most often develops between the ages of 30 and 50. The condition is characterized by a non-cancerous, benign thickening of the connective tissue in the breast. This thickening tissue can cause tenderness in both breasts as well as breast pain, lumpy breast tissue and cysts. Breast tenderness in fibrocystic breasts most often accompanies menstruation. In fact, the symptoms of fibrocystic breast condition often disappear with the onset of menopause unless they are taking hormone replacement therapy.
One of the most overlooked causes of tender breasts is incorrect bra size. It is important to be professionally fitted for a bra as most women who have not end up continually purchasing the wrong bra size which can lead to breast tenderness as well as back pain. The cause of your breast tenderness is likely to be your bra if you have large breasts and the breast tenderness that you experience is not cyclical. Visit a store with a professional bra fitter. Your new bra size may alleviate your symptoms.