Mastitis is a term which is used to describe breast infection. This is an infection of the breast tissue which results in breast pain, redness, warmth and swelling. Also you can have chills and fever. This condition is most commonly affecting women who are breastfeeding and this is known as lactation mastitis. But also there are some cases when mastitis is happening in women who are not breastfeeding. In the most cases, lactation mastitis is happening within the first 6 – 12 weeks after giving birth (condition known as postpartum) but also it can happen later during breast – feeding. This condition can cause women to feel run down which will make difficult for them to carry for their babies. There are some cases when mastitis leads a mother to wean her baby before she intends to but she needs to continue to breast – feed, even while she is taking an antibiotic for mastitis because this is better for her and her baby.
Symptoms of mastitis
This condition usually affects one breast. With mastitis, signs and symptoms can appear suddenly and they can include:
- Fever of 38.3 C (101 F) or greater
- A breast lump or area of hardness on your breast
- Skin redness, often in a wedge – shaped pattern
- Pain or a burning sensation continuously or while breast – feeding
- Breast swelling
- General feeling ill (malaise)
- Breast tenderness or warmth to the touch
- Nipple discharge which may be white or contains streaks of blood
It is known fact that mastitis is happening in the first several weeks of breast – feeding but also it can happen anytime during the breast – feeding. Also you should know that the lactation mastitis tends to affect only one breast. If you have noticed some of the above mentioned signs and symptoms, then you should talk with your doctor as soon as possible because if you left it untreated, then it could lead to complications. Your doctor will tell you if you have mastitis after you have told him or her your symptoms and he or she will make an examination of your breasts.
Causes of mastitis
You should know that the breast – feeding is a learned skill. The poor technique can lead to milk being trapped in the breast which is the main cause for mastitis. Also there are other causes for mastitis such as
Bacteria which is entering your breast: Bacteria from your baby’s mouth and from your skin’s surface can enter the milk ducts through a crack or break in the skin of your nipple or through a milk duct opening. Stagnant milk in the breast which is not emptied enough provides a breeding ground for the bacteria. The antibacterial properties of the milk of women can help to protect their baby from the infection.
A blocked milk duct: If the breast does not completely empty at feedings, then one of your milk ducts can become clogged which is causing the milk to back up and this will lead to breast infection.
Mastitis also can happen in women who are not breast – feeding and the main cause for it is the bacterial infection. This type of mastitis is called periductal mastitis. It usually is affecting women in their late 20s and early 30s. Also it is more common among women who smoke.
Risk factors: Here are some factors which are increasing the risk of getting mastitis:
- Poor nutrition
- Previous bout of mastitis while breast – feeding
- Becoming overly tired or stressed
- Wearing a tight fitting bra or putting pressure on your breast from using a seatbelt or carrying a heavy bag, which may restrict milk flow
- Using only one position to breast – feed which may not fully drain your breast
- Sore or cracked nipples, although mastitis can develop without broken skin
- Breast – feeding during the first few weeks after childbirth
Complications: If the mastitis is not adequately treated or if the mastitis is related to a blocked duct, then a collection of pus (abscess) can develop in your breast and this can form a breast mass or area of firmness with thickening. When there is an abscess in the breast, then this usually requires surgical drainage. You should talk with your doctor because or she will help to avoid this complication.