Breast abscess

Breast Infection

Basic Information

What is Breast abscess?

An infected area of breast tissue that becomes filled with pus when the body fights the infection. It involves breast tissue, nipple, milk glands, and milk ducts.

Breast abscess signs and symptoms

  • Breast pain, tenderness, redness or hardness.
  • Fever and chills.
  • A general ill feeling.
  • Tender lymph glands in the underarm area.

Causes

Bacteria that enter the breast through the nipple (usually a cracked nipple during the early days of breastfeeding).

Risk increases with

Preventive measures

  • Clean the nipples and breasts thoroughly before and after nursing.
  • Lubricate the nipples after nursing with vitamin A & D ointment or other topical medication if recommended.
  • Avoid clothing that irritates the breasts.
  • Don't allow a nursing infant to chew nipples.

Expected outcomes

Usually curable in 8 to 10 days with treatment. Draining the abscess is occasionally necessary to hasten healing.

Possible complications

  • It is rarely necessary to discontinue breast-feeding even with severe infection. Occasionally, certain antibiotics (especially tetracycline) and pain relievers will require that breast-feeding be discontinued for a brief period of time, and it will be necessary to pump the breasts.
  • Rarely, a fistula (abnormal passage between two organs or between the body and the outside) may develop.

Breast abscess treatment

General measures

  • Use warm-water (or cold water if it is more soothing) soaks to relieve pain and hasten healing.
  • Discontinue nursing the baby from the infected breast until it heals. Use a breast pump to express milk regularly from the infected breast until you can resume nursing on that side.
  • Surgery to drain the abscess (infrequent).

Medications

  • Antibiotics, if needed to fight infection.
  • Prescription pain medication generally should be required only for 2 to 7 days following the procedure.

Activity

After treatment, resume normal activity as soon as symptoms improve.

Diet

No special diet.

Notify your physician if

  • You or a family member has symptoms of a breast abscess.
  • Any of the following occur during treatment:
    • Fever.
    • Pain becomes severe.
    • Infection seems to be spreading, despite treatment.
    • Symptoms don't improve in 72 hours.
  • New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.

Last updated 7 August 2011


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