With proper treatment, such as taking antibiotics and massaging the inflammation, Mastitis symptoms should resolve within one to two days.
Though mastitis is very painful, usually involving lactating mothers but also occasionally seen in nonlactating women and men, it is a benign condition (noncancerous infection of the breast tissue that usually involves one breast but sometimes can involve both breasts). It can be treated successfully with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications/painkillers prescribed by the doctor along with fomentation.
Who is at risk of mastitis?
The following people are at a high risk of mastitis:
- Lactating mothers (most common)
- Breast implant patients
- Women with nipple piercings
- Patients with diabetes
- Patients with autoimmune conditions
- Menopausal and postmenopausal women (due to thickening of the ducts because of hormonal changes in their body)
How does mastitis develop?
There are two ways in which the breast tissue can get infected:
- Blocked milk ducts: This is seen in nursing mothers. If the milk isn’t properly emptied for a long time, either due to a block in the lactating ducts or inability to breastfeed, then the milk inside the ducts starts harboring bacteria that later infect the breast tissue causing mastitis.
- Broken nipple barrier: If the skin over the nipple or breast is damaged, then the protective mechanism is lost, and it predisposes to the risk of getting infected by the bacteria and developing mastitis (this route is more commonly seen in people with implants and piercings).
What are the common symptoms of mastitis?
Common signs and symptoms include:
- Swollen breast
- Burning sensation while breastfeeding
- High fever
- Breast lumps
- Nipple discharge
- Nausea and vomiting
- Extensive fatigue
How is mastitis diagnosed?
Because it’s an inflammatory condition, an external examination is often enough to diagnose the disease.
How is mastitis treated?
Treatment options for mastitis include:
- Doctors give antibiotics (oral) to clear out the infection.
- They give painkillers to reduce pain.
- Soft massage and warm compress can be applied to relieve inflammation.
- Mothers can frequently nurse the child to prevent the building up of milk in the ducts.
What are the preventative measures for mastitis?
Besides general measures, such as keeping the area cleaned after implants or piercing and cessation of smoking, nursing-specific actions that might prevent the disease include:
- Fully drain the milk from the breast while feeding.
- Allow the baby to completely finish milk from one breast before shifting to the other.
- Change positions while feeding to fully empty all areas of the breast.
- Don’t wear tight-fitting bras that keep the nipple moist to prevent the buildup of bacteria.
What are the complications of mastitis?
Although mastitis is a very common and treatable condition if timely managed with antibiotics if ignored for a very long period, it can lead to serious infection of the deep breast tissue and abscess formation that will require surgical intervention for drainage.
One of the common myths associated with mastitis is that it can increase the risk of breast cancer, but this is not true. Mastitis is a completely benign infection and isn’t related to malignancy of the breast tissue in any way.
Mastitis is a very painful condition but completely treatable with antibiotics and not a risk factor for breast cancer. It’s possible to develop the condition multiple times if the aforementioned preventive measures are not taken. Patients shouldn’t stop breastfeeding the baby because disallowing breastfeeding can cause more buildup of milk and infection.