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by Rick Alan
Mastitis is painful swelling and redness in the breast. It is especially common among women who are breastfeeding. While it is most common in just 1 breast at a time, it can occur in both breasts at the same time.
Mastitis is often caused by trapped breast milk in a milk duct. The trapped breast milk can irritate the tissue around it and cause swelling and pain.
Mastitis can also be caused by a bacterial infection in the breast tissue. Milk ducts or cracked skin around the nipple can allow bacteria to enter the breast and cause an infection.
Mastitis often occurs during breastfeeding but, it is possible to get mastitis at other times. This fact sheet will focus on symptoms and treatment of lactation-associated mastitis.
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that may increase your chances of mastitis:
Mastitis may cause:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If the diagnosis is uncertain, or if mastitis recurs, your doctor may do a:
In some cases, your doctor may want to look for other conditions that may cause similar symptoms. In these situations, other tests may be performed such as a:
Treatment may include:
Methods to Clear Blocked Breast Ducts
Relieving the blockage in the milk duct is an effective way to decrease the pain and swelling. To clear blocked breast ducts try:
To help reduce pain and swelling in the breast:
Antibiotics may be used to treat the infection. They may help cure the infection or reduce the risk of more serious but rare complications such as blood infection. If you are breastfeeding, talk to your doctor about which antibiotics are best for you to take so you can continue to breastfeed.
If mastitis does not respond to antibiotics, a localized collection of pus called an abscess might be present. This is usually treated with other antibiotics and a drainage procedure or surgery.
To help reduce your chances of mastitis:
Office on Women's Health
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Canadian Women's Health Network
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Amir L. Breastfeeding and Staphylococcus aureus: Three case reports. Breastfeed Rev. 2002;10(1):15-18.
Barbosa-Cesnik C, Schwartz K, Foxman B. Lactation mastitis. JAMA. 2003;289(13):1609-1612.
Laibl VR, Sheffield JS, Roberts S, McIntire DD, Trevino S, Wendel GD Jr. Clinical presentation of community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 2005;106(3):461-465.
Mastitis. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/mastitis. Updated April 1, 2014. Accessed April 17, 2018.
Masitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116795/Mastitis. Updated March 15, 2016. Accessed April 17, 2018.
Spencer J. Management of mastitis in breastfeeding women. Am Fam Physician. 2008;78(6):727-731.
11/5/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116795/Mastitis: Amir L, The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee. ABM clinical protocol #4: mastitis, revised March 2014. Breastfeed Med. 2014;9(5):239-243.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD
Last Updated: 11/5/2014
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