Infection on the breast can occur due to bacteria or fungus. It infects the tissue of the breast causing swelling and abscess. Breast infection can develop commonly in breastfeeding mothers. It is known as mastitis or breast abscess in medical terms. This type of infection occurs commonly during the first 3 months of lactation period. But some women may develop this infection even when they are not breastfeeding.
Some of the symptoms that may develop during breast infection are tenderness on the breast, swelling or enlargement in size of the breast, burning sensation and redness of skin over the infected breast. Some women may also develop fever, breast pain and pus like discharge from the nipple.
Breast fungus is mainly caused due to the blockage of milk duct present in the breast. When the secreted milk does not get emptied fully it gets clogged inside the breast thus blocking the milk ducts. This in turn can cause breast pain and warmth on the breast. Bacteria or fungus can enter into the breast through a small crack in the skin that surrounds the nipple.
Who are at risk?
Mothers who have delivered their baby and those who are in the stage of breastfeeding the child are at risk of developing breast infection. It often occurs during the initial weeks of breastfeeding. If the infection occurs through micro-organisms it can enter the body through small cracks or sores or opened milk ducts on the nipples.
Women who are using only one position while feeding may not be able to fully empty the secreted milk which may lead to infection. Women who are using ill-fitting bra are likely to develop infection since the milk flow can get blocked. Women who have had previous episodes of mastitis or breast infection have increased chance of getting this infection again.
Pus can build inside the breast due to overgrowth of fungus or bacteria leading to restriction of milk flow. This in turn can cause intense pain on the breast and swelling. In some cases, surgical intervention is necessary to drain off the pus inside. For some women, lymph nodes of the armpits may get enlarged and swollen.
The doctor can easily identify breast infection during the physical exam and listening to the symptoms. She would make sure that you are not having any lumps or abscess on the breast which can be an indication of breast cancer. No other test is needed to diagnose breast fungus.
For getting quick relief, your doctor may give you a shot of acetaminophen or suggest oral tablets like Tylenol or Ibuprofen to manage breast pain. Antibiotics are prescribed in case of bacterial infection and antifungal medications are given for controlling fungal infection. You need to complete the course of medications as recommended by your doctor to prevent further infection.
You can consult your doctor for making suitable adjustments of breastfeeding. You can continue to feed your baby even while taking antibiotics and always use varied positions while breastfeeding to prevent clogging of milk ducts. To manage pain, you can apply warm compress over the breast and in case your baby cannot feed on time, you may express the milk manually using your hands.
Tips for Prevention :
Use different position while feeding your baby. Always keep your breast clean and moist-free. Use a soft cotton cloth for wiping off any excess of milk after each feed. Ensure that you are draining the milk fully from one breast before changing over to another.