Breast inflammation, known in medical terms as mastitis, occurs primarily in breastfeeding women. A milk blockage or minor injuries to the nipples facilitate the entrance of bacteria into the mammary glands. In rare cases, mastitis can also occur in women who are not breastfeeding.
Mastitis during breastfeeding is also known as mastitis puerperalis. It usually occurs two to three weeks after a new mother starts breastfeeding. Bacteria can enter the mammary glands via wounds in the nipples. If there is also a concomitant milk blockage, this facilitates the development of mastitis. However, not every milk blockage necessarily leads to mastitis.
Mastitis rarely occurs when a woman is not breastfeeding. Often there is no clear reason for this. Sometime there is an increased production of the hormone prolactin, which stimulates the mammary glands.
Typical symptoms of mastitis are pain and a feeling of tightness in the breast, a reddened and overwarm breast and wounds on the nipples. Sometimes this is accompanied by fever, a general feeling of malaise and enlarged lymph nodes in the armpits. In severe cases, an abscess can form in the mammary ducts.
Mastitis is diagnosed on the basis on the symptoms. An ultrasound can clarify how far the mastitis has spread. A smear can be taken to determine the pathogens. Skin bacteria (staphylococci) are usually responsible for mastitis.
The treatment depends on the severity of the mastitis. Mild cases can be treated by binding the breasts and red light irradiation to promote milk flow. Stroking the breast during breastfeeding helps to resolve the milk blockage. During a breast infection, you may and should continue to breastfeed. The bacteria is usually killed off in the stomach of the child and will not damage the child. Cooling wraps help after breastfeeding.
If the mastitis does not improve with these measures in one to two days, antibiotics are usually required. The doctor will prescribe antibiotics that are not dangerous for the child. If an abscess forms, this must usually be drained with a small surgical procedure.