Breast cellulitis is an infection in the layers of skin covering the breast. It is typically painful and can appear red and swollen. Left untreated, there is a potential for serious complications, like widespread tissue death in the breast and a spread of infection to other areas of the body. People with this condition will be given antibiotics to kill the organisms and may in some cases need surgery to remove dead and severely infected tissue.
People can develop breast cellulitis for a variety of reasons. A break in the skin caused by an insect bite, surgery, or accidental scratch can be a likely culprit. This allows microorganisms to slip past the defenses of the skin, establishing a colony inside the skin. They can also penetrate to the layers of connective tissue directly below the skin. If the immune system fails to detect the fight the incursion in time, breast cellulitis can develop.
Patients with breast cellulitis will notice aching and tenderness, followed by the appearance of redness. The breast tissue may swell and it usually hurts on contact. The area around the break in the skin can leak pus and other fluids. Immediate treatment for breast cellulitis involves administering antibiotics. The patient may also be advised to rest and drink plenty of fluids to support immune health. If these measures are not effective, more invasive treatments may be needed.
In surgery, a doctor can open up the breast to clean and debride it. This process will include flushing out pus and other fluids, cutting away clearly dead tissue, and setting up drains to allow the infection to drain while it heals. In some cases, severe breast cellulitis may result in the need to remove a lot of tissue. The patient may require reconstructive surgery after the infection is completely healed to rebuild the breast. These cases are rare, and primarily occur when people fail to seek treatment until the infection is quite advanced.
Some people develop recurrent skin infections like cellulitis, for a variety of reasons. If this is a concern, a doctor may recommend some hygiene measures to reduce the risk of infection, and patients can also be provided with a standing order for antibiotics to treat infections as soon as they start to develop. During an active infection, it is important to wear clean, breathable clothing and keep the breast as clean and dry as possible.