An abscess or lump formed on the breast due to bacterial infection is called breast abscess. The tissues of the breast can develop painful lumps making it difficult to breastfeed the child. However it is a rare phenomenon occurring in 6 in every 100 breastfeeding mothers.
Initially mastitis is formed on the breast tissue which later develops into breast abscess. In any abscess there will be pus formation inside the tissue that is difficult to drain. Staphylococcus bacteria causes breast infection and the bacteria can penetrate into the skin through small cracks available in the nipple. This infection is called mastitis that builds up inside the fatty tissue which develops inflammation forming pus like abscess. The bacteria invade the milk ducts thereby causing swelling due to pus formation. Breast abscess can be treated with antibiotics and to avoid this type of abscess breastfeeding mother has to follow good hygiene.
Enlargement of breast due to swelling, lumps or painful abscess formation on the breast, itching, tenderness of breast, and fever are some of the symptoms of breast abscess. The lump gets swollen and hot to touch hence can cause high fever or flu like symptoms. Pus is formed inside the abscess and sometimes there can be discharge from nipple. The lymph nodes on the armpit can get swollen and painful making it difficult to lift the hand.
Breast abscess is caused by staphylococcus aureus bacterial infection. It enters the breast through minute cracks of the nipple and feeds on the milk ducts. A mother who is diabetic has increased risk of developing mastitis causing abscess or plugged ducts. Similarly mothers who have undergone surgery on the breast and breast implants have more chances for getting breast abscess. Smoking and intake of powerful corticosteroids can cause infection leading to breast abscess.
Risk Factors :
The mothers who are not keeping consistent feeding schedule, not feeding the baby properly, wearing too tight bra which develops pressure on the milk ducts, stress and smoking can cause breast abscess in breastfeeding mothers. If you are skipping few sessions of feeding it can cause swelling of milk ducts making it easy for bacteria entry. In rare cases, breast abscess is formed on non-feeding women who are in child bearing ages, who are obese, had previous abscess and those who have had breast cancer.
In case you are skipping feeding sessions, then you can manually remove the milk from the ducts using a pump. Breastfeeding mothers should maintain good hygiene by cleaning the breast after every feed. Avoid smoking and maintain a healthy weight.
Mere physical examination of the lumps is enough for detecting breast abscess. Sometimes your physician will administer WBC test for measuring the total white blood cells to judge the immune reaction of the body. If necessary your doctor would collect the milk sample for detecting the type of organism that has caused infection.
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Often, breast abscess can be easily drained in the doctor’s office without needing surgery. Aspiration is the process by which the doctor presses the lump with a needle for draining the pus inside. Small sized abscess can be drained using a needle and catheter or surgical method is used for draining large sized breast abscess. After the process the wound is left open to facilitate healing.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics after draining the abscess for easy healing. In case the abscess is formed deep inside the tissue the mother is given local anesthesia for removing it. This procedure is called I&D and usually an incision is made from the folds of the chest without disturbing the nipple area. Antibiotics like erythromycin, penicillin, and cephalosporin are prescribed for treating breast abscess. You can consult your doctor whether you can breastfeed the child after surgery.
Home Care :
You can apply raw honey on the abscess since honey is an excellent antibiotic for curing bacterial infection. Apply warm or cold compress on the affected area to reduce pain and swelling. You can take warm showers followed by application of cold compress to get relief. Avoid breastfeeding the child if you have developed lumps or abscess on the breast area. For women who are not breastfeeding can apply moisturizing cream on the nipples to prevent cracking and drying.
In rare cases breast abscess can become chronic infection causing painful swollen breast. It can disfigure the breast area with chronic pain and if not attended properly it may cause sepsis which is a bacterial blood infection.