Breast inflammations or mastitides are unpleasant diseases caused by bacteria, most commonly by staphylococcus aureus (golden staph). Especially in the post partum period, during breastfeeding the breasts are put under a lot of strain. Small tears occur on the nipple, through which bacteria enters the glands. Breast duct not being emptied and holding milk also contributes to breast inflammations, since this creates a nutrient rich environment for the bacteria, which the reproduce quickly. The infection also spreads through the breast's lymph vessels and can gradually affect the entire gland.
Breast, or the mammary gland is a paired sex organ located on the chest, comprised of a milk gland with fatty tissue and ligaments. The fatty tissue determines the size and shape of the breast, through its size and distribution. The gland is formed by little lobes leading to milk ducts and ending at the nipple, which is used for breastfeeding. The skin of the breasts is very soft and thin. The nipple and its surrounding area, known as an areola, is pigmented and contains muscles responsible for the nipple's erection. The skin in the areola also contains sweat and sebaceous glands, as well as fine hairs. The growth and development of breasts is influenced by female sex hormones, estrogen and progesteron. This is why during pregnancy, when the hormonal levels are high, the breast increase in size. Another hormone, called prolactin, is responsible for making and excreting milk from the gland, lactation.
Causes of breast inflammation
Breastfeeding women are most commonly afflicted by breast inflammation. As was written before, the cause of a breast inflammation is the golden staph, staphylococcus aureus, The bacteria enters the breast either through a tear in the skin or through the milk ducts. This causes the growth and buildup of bacteria in the milk ad the development of an inflammation. Other causes of breast inflammation can be fungi or parasites, trauma or blockage of the milk ducts, for example by cell multiplication. Some diseases can cause a breast inflammation to develop as well, such as tuberculosis, syphilis or sarcoidosis. Breast inflammations can occur outside of the breastfeeding period as well in women after menopause or after an injury. The milk gland continually produces a colorless fluid, which isn't particularly noticeable, tends to wipe on clothing, but should the ducts widen and the fluid not flow out, an inflammation can occur.
Breast inflammations and their symptoms
Breast inflammations cause stiffness of the breast, sensitivity or even pain on touch and the skin above the afflicted to redden. A feeling of pressure and heat are present in the affected breast and a purulent discharge from the nipple can occur. A painful lump can almost always be felt in the breast. On the whole it causes increased temperature, chills and shivers and increased heartbeat. Further symptoms are headaches, dizziness and overall weakness and nausea. A cavity filled with pus, an abscess, can be formed by the inflammation. It also manifests through swelling pain and reddening of the affected area.
Diagnostics of breast inflammation
Breast inflammations are diagnosed based on symptoms and ultrasound examination. A mammogram, during which pressure needs to be applied on the breast, tends to be too painful for a woman with an inflamed breast to be performed. Only an ultrasound can give the doctor a worthwhile image on which a diagnosis can be made.
Treatment of breast inflammation
Breast inflammations are mainly treated by antibiotics. Before antibiotics are applied however, it is advisable to take a sample of the woman's milk and send it for a lab examination. There the bacteria causing the inflammation is cultivated and their sensitivity is determined, allowing the doctor to select the most effective antibiotics. The most commonly used ones are anti-staphylococcus penicilins, cephalosporins and, should the patient be allergic to penicilin, macrolides or clindamycin are used. Wet or dry heat is also applied topically on the breasts, to release any milk. Medication to suppress the fever and the pain is applied as well. Gentle breast massages are recommenced too. Rest, plenty of fluids and comfortable cotton clothing are suggested. Breastfeeding should not be interrupted and the afflicted breast should be emptied out periodically. Should there be a persisting abscess, a punction will be performed together with applying antibiotics.
Breast inflammation risk factors
Contributing factors for breast inflammation are milk retention, improper breastfeeding method, increased stress bot physical and mental and decreased immunity. Other risk factors are injuries, menopause and bad hygienic conditions.
Prevention of breast inflammation
The breasts need increased attention during the breastfeeding period, the buildup of milk needs to be prevented by emptying them, massaging and increased hygiene. The mother is supervised by a doctor after birth, to see if an infection is developing. Professional guidance on the creation and expressing of milk is also provided by a trained medical personnel and professional counseling. If any pain occurs during breastfeeding or any other symptoms even if you are not currently breastfeeding, please visit your gynecologist as soon as possible.