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What is Breast Inflammation?

Sara Schmidt
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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When the breasts become infected, breast inflammation often occurs. Many different causes can be to blame for this bothersome, often painful condition. Breast inflammation is typically a symptom of conditions such as mastitis, breast rash, or other infections.

Breast inflammation typically affects women ages 18 to 50. Younger and older women, as well as men, can also develop inflammation in the breasts, in some cases. Two main types of inflammation of the breasts exist: cases associated with breastfeeding and those which are not, also known as spontaneous cases.

During breastfeeding, mastitis can occur if the breasts become infected. Cracked skin around the nipple, breast tenderness, and flu-like symptoms may develop when this infection is present. This condition can often be prevented by keeping careful, proper hygiene, which can be difficult for new mothers. An antibiotic deemed infant-safe is typically prescribed to patients suffering from mastitis.

A cause of breast inflammation unrelated to breastfeeding, or spontaneous inflammation, can be attributed to a number of different causes. In young girls, the symptom is rare and often due to another infection in the body. Patients who smoke are more susceptible to breast infection of the nipple, which typically occurs from the late 20s to 30s in life. Women or men with large breasts can often develop a bacterial or fungal infection due to excessive sweating, particularly during the summertime.

Most of these cases of inflammation can be remedied with a simple antibiotic prescribed by a physician. In the case of a topical infection, an antifungal or antibacterial cream may be given. In grave cases of serious infection, a surgical operation may be required to remove diseased ducts to prevent further infection.

As the tissue becomes inflamed, breast swelling often develops. Pain in the area can occur, although that is not always the case. Itching is often a symptom of inflammation, particularly if the cause is a breast rash. Redness is often present during inflammation as well.

Inflammation of the breasts is often a precursor of breast cancer. An inflammation process is thought to provoke the development of tumors. If one develops inflammation in the breast tissue without provocation from a cause, such as nursing a baby, a visit to the doctor is recommended.

If caught early, the inflammation can be reduced or stopped, ceasing the breast cancer development. Due to these findings, breast inflammation may be key in finding a cure for breast cancer. It may also lead scientists to a possible preventative treatment.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Sara Schmidt
By Sara Schmidt , Writer
With a Master's Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University, Sara Schmidt puts her expertise to use by writing for The Health Board, plus various magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She published her own novella and has other literary projects in the works. Sara's diverse background includes teaching children in Spain, tutoring college students, running CPR and first aid classes, and organizing student retreats, reflecting her passion for education and community engagement.

Discussion Comments

By Ana1234 — On Apr 28, 2013

It's good to remember that pain in the breast can also be a symptom of cancer. It's not that likely, but it's definitely possible, particularly if you've got a cyst in the milk ducts or something like that.

Make sure you keep your eye on the other things that show up when cancer is there, like one of your breasts changing shape or the skin dimpling, or a change in the nipple, or, of course, finding a lump. Any changes like this, particularly if you've got inflammation as well, need to be reported ASAP to a doctor.

By browncoat — On Apr 28, 2013

@MrsPramm - Apparently it can really help to use cabbage leaves on your nipples. I'm not sure what it's supposed to do, or if it actually helps, but my cousin swore by them as a way to keep off mastitis when she was breastfeeding.

I'm more worried about what it says in the article on how women can develop infected nipples even if they aren't breast feeding! I have to confess I don't really tend to think of my nipples as an organ capable of producing fluid, I just think of them as more skin, so the idea of them spontaneously developing an infection seems kind of wrong.

By MrsPramm — On Apr 27, 2013

My mother developed mastitis when she was breastfeeding me (I'm her first child, so she was new to everything) and she once told me it was so painful she thought she was dying. It didn't help that she developed a fever and everything.

It wasn't until her mother came over and saw how much pain she was in that she called the doctor and my mother got proper treatment. I guess she was worried that they wouldn't take her seriously or something?

I wish I had been old enough to scold her or something, because if you're in agony from breast pain while breastfeeding it means something has gone wrong, not that you're somehow doing something wrong.

Sara Schmidt

Sara Schmidt

Writer

With a Master's Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University, Sara Schmidt puts her expertise to use by writing for The Health Board, plus various magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She published her own novella and has other literary projects in the works. Sara's diverse background includes teaching children in Spain, tutoring college students, running CPR and first aid classes, and organizing student retreats, reflecting her passion for education and community engagement.
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