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Breast infection: Symptoms, causes, types, and treatment

While many people associate this condition with breastfeeding, people who are not breastfeeding can also get breast infections.

This article will explore breast infections in more detail, including their symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.

Symptoms

In some cases, a person with a breast infection may notice an infected lesion on the surface of the breast. Other times, pain deep in the breast might indicate an infection.

Breast infection symptoms can include:

  • the breast feeling hot to the touch
  • cracked or damaged nipples
  • a fever
  • flu-like symptoms, including body aches and feeling tired
  • nausea
  • pain in the breast
  • red streaks on the breast
  • sores on the breast that will not heal

Some people may develop ulcers on their skin, which may leak pus or blood.

The treatment for a breast infection often depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the symptoms.

If a person has a breast abscess, a doctor may recommend draining the abscess.

A doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics if the infection is due to bacteria. Typically, symptoms will start to improve within 1–2 days of treatment.

People should always take the full course of antibiotics, even if they start to feel better before completing treatment.

In rare instances, a person may require surgery to remove a damaged duct to keep the infection from returning.

However, surgery is a last resort when taking antibiotics and draining the cyst are ineffective.

Home remedies

A person can use a variety of home remedies to minimize the pain and discomfort of the infection.

Home remedies include:

  • Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids and resting whenever possible.
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing and avoiding tight bras.

If a woman’s breast infection is due to breastfeeding, she can take the following steps to reduce discomfort and minimize the likelihood of the infection coming back:

  • Continuing to breastfeed unless a doctor says otherwise. A woman will not pass the infection on to a baby.
  • Using the infected breast first when breastfeeding to ensure that it empties. However, if this is too painful, a woman may begin with the opposite breast. She can then switch to the affected one afterward, when the baby’s sucking motion may be gentler.
  • Applying warm, moist compresses to the painful breast.
  • Trying to adopt different positions during breastfeeding so that the breast can empty. A lactation consultant can sometimes help with identifying alternative body positions or other ways to facilitate breastfeeding.
  • Massaging the areas of the breast that feel hard with gentle pressure while breastfeeding. This massage can help prevent the duct from clogging.

If a person’s symptoms do not improve with antibiotics and OTC treatments, they should talk to a doctor.

People should also see a doctor if they have red streaks that originate on the breast and extend to the underarm or if blood or pus is present in breast milk.

Outlook

A breast infection can occur due to breastfeeding, or it can be the result of injuries or damage to the breast.

Anyone who suspects that they have an infection should see a doctor, who can provide antibiotics or drain an abscess.

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