What is Breast Eczema and What are the Symptoms?
Eczema that affects the breast area is referred to as breast eczema. Breast eczema, in fact, is one of the most common reasons behind itchiness of the nipple. Breast eczema is also possible to experience skin breakouts on or under the breasts, or even between the breasts along with the rest of the chest area. Symptoms of breast eczema tend to vary from woman to woman, but in general, may include:
- Dry, cracked or scaly skin on or around the breasts.(1)
- Tiny bumps that can cause discharge of fluid and crust over after scratching.
- Swollen or highly sensitive skin around the chest area from scratching.
- Reddish or brownish-gray areas of skin present on the breasts, in between the breasts, or affecting the skin under the breasts.(1)
What is the Treatment of Breast Eczema?
Eczema that affects the breasts can prove to be a persistent and long-lasting condition. There is no cure for breast eczema as of today.(1) However, there are certain treatments available for managing the symptoms and you can also put in place certain preventative measures for relief. Some of these options are discussed below:
Avoid Triggers(1): Identify the potential triggers that cause a flare-up of your breast eczema and avoid these triggers or anything that causes the condition to worsen. Some common triggers for breast eczema include: food allergies, excessive sweating, pollen, harsh soaps or using harsh detergents.
Use Emollients(1): You should try to moisturize the skin in, around, under, and between the breasts multiple times in a day to trap the moisture inside. You can use petroleum jelly, different types of creams and lotions, or a prescription cream given by your doctor.
No More Hot Showers(2): Avoid taking hot showers. Instead, take a shower with lukewarm water and limit it to no more than 15 minutes.
Bleach Bath Is Worth A Shot(4): To prevent flare-ups of eczema, try taking a diluted bleach bath. In this type of a bath, you use half a cup or a quarter cup of household bleach (make sure it is not concentrated), and add it to the bathtub containing warm water. Soak your body, keeping the head above water for 10-15 minutes. However, it is not recommended to take more than three diluted bleach baths in a week. Also, before trying a bleach bath for breast eczema, consult your doctor to make sure it’s okay for you to try.
Gentle Touch & Moisturizer(4): After bathing or showering, gently pat down your skin with a soft towel. Apply moisturizer while the skin is still a little damp to trap as much moisture as possible.
If your breast eczema symptoms tend to persist, then you should consult either your doctor or a dermatologist. If you start to experience severe discomfort and your condition starts affecting your day-to-day activities or does not allow you to sleep properly at night, then it is absolutely important that you see your doctor at the earliest for treating your breast eczema. If could also be that you have developed a skin infection, which needs to be properly treated with prescription antibiotics by your doctor.
If your breast eczema has developed into a skin infection, then it will be characterized by yellow scabs, pus in the area, or red streaks.(1)
Could Breast Eczema Be Mistaken For Paget’s Disease of the Breast?
In some rare cases, it might be that what you are assuming to be breast eczema, is actually Paget’s disease of the breast. Paget’s disease is a rare form of breast cancer that begins with the itchiness of the nipple and then slowly spreads to the areola, which is the dark region of skin around the nipples.(5) Paget’s disease of the breast commonly gets misdiagnosed as breast eczema or eczema of the nipple because the symptoms at the starting stage involve a red and scaly rash of the skin on and around the breast(5).
The cause of Paget’s disease of the breast remains unknown, but doctors believe that it is caused as a result of a non-invasive underlying form of breast cancer known as ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS.(6) The cancer cells from an existing tumor in the breast tissues that lie behind the nipple can transport to the areola and the nipples through the milk ducts present in the breasts.
As mentioned above, Paget’s disease of the breast is a very rare condition and it is only found in one to four percent of all breast cancers. The conditions are more commonly found in women who are older than 50 years and the risk factors for the condition include.(5):
- A family history of having some type of breast abnormalities or breast cancer
- Genetic mutations in the genes HER2 or BRCA1.(7)
- Having dense breast tissue
- Hormone replacement
- Obesity or excess weight gain particularly after menopause
Paget’s disease of the breast is often misdiagnosed as breast eczema because of the presence of a red and scaly rash. Symptoms start in one breast and then typically move to the other as well. Symptoms of Paget’s disease may include:
- Burning or tingling feeling on the breast.(6)
- Crusty, thickening, flaky, or oozing skin on the areola and/or the nipple.(6)
- Inverted nipple.
- Yellow or bloody discharge from the nipple.(6)
- Lump behind the nipple or in the breast.(6)
With the correct and timely treatment, it is possible to manage breast eczema or atopic dermatitis of the breast efficiently. However, you need to be careful that you identify and avoid the triggers that cause a flare-up of breast eczema. This will cause the condition to return.
If your breast eczema symptoms are severe or if you experience any bloody discharge from the nipples, then you must seek medical assistance immediately. Keep in mind that the typical symptoms of breast eczema may actually indicate a more serious underlying condition, such as the Paget’s disease of the breast. So, make sure to seek medical help as soon as you notice your symptoms.
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