A breast abscess is usually a complication of mastitis (inflammation of the breast). If you have mastitis, you may be prescribed antibiotics to treat the infection. Go back to see your GP if your symptoms don’t improve after taking antibiotics.
The symptoms of a breast abscess or mastitis occurs primarily during breast-feeding. The abscess that develops in the breast can cause pain, swelling, redness and a sensation of heat around the breast tissue.
The abscess or infection occurs when bacteria enters a crack in the nipple. The bacteria are normally transmitted through the baby’s mouth. This can cause the breast to get infected and swell up.
A breast infection that leads to the formation of pus pockets in the breast or an abscess is a more serious type of infection. Untreated mastitis can lead to the formation of a breast abscess.
Causes of a breast abscess
Most abscesses are caused by bacterial infections. The most common bacteria that causes mastitis is Staphylococcus aureus.
The bacteria usually enter the breast through small cracks or breaks in the skin of the nipple, which can sometimes develop during breastfeeding.
Infections can also be caused by an overgrowth of bacteria that usually exist quite harmlessly within the milk ducts (the tiny tubes inside the breast that carry milk). An overgrowth of bacteria can occur if stagnant milk collects in a blocked milk duct.
Symptoms Of A Breast Abscess
An infection from the baby’s mouth, primarily the staphylococcal bacteria enters the milk ducts and causes a condition called as mastitis. This condition is worsened due to breast engorgement and may cause acute discomfort to the mother.
The typical signs of a breast abscess are fever, chills, pain in the breast, nipple soreness, shaking, tenderness and swelling, breast engorgement and body ache. There may also be pain and redness around the breast tissue.
Formation of The Abscess
Abscesses may already exist in the breast in the form of non-cancerous lumps. These little pockets are infected after coming into contact with harmful bacteria. They then become infectious abscesses.
The woman may start to ooze pus from the nipples. The lumps become larger in the breast and do not disappear even after feeding and emptying the breasts. The fever continues to remain high and does not go down even after 48 hours of treatment.
When To Seek Help
Call your doctor if you find lumps in your breast that are painful especially during breast-feeding. If your breasts become unbearably engorged, swell and become painful, then contact your doctor who can prescribe some form of treatment to reduce the severity of the symptoms.
The doctor will evaluate your condition. A local, mild infection can be treated with antibiotics. A severe breast abscess will require treatment that is more aggressive and will probably require surgical drainage in order to remove the pus and treat the infection.
Acute nausea, vomiting and red streaks across the chest should not be ignored and should be shown to the doctor immediately.
The infection usually starts within a month or two after delivery when the breast milk is being established. The first two weeks are characterized by severe engorgement of the breast when the milk fills up and the demand is not as much as the supply.
This causes a condition called as milk fever in which the body temperature goes up to 102 degrees F. The temperature normally subsides after 4-16 hours if the breasts are emptied and proper breast-feeding technique is followed. About 13% of women suffer from this fever. The nipples also become sore and painful.