Mastitis refers to a condition in which the breast tissue gets inflamed. The inflammation is most of the times due to an infection that affects the breast ducts. It is a generally seen in women that are breastfeeding, though at times it can be witnessed in other women as well. Mastitis usually causes a pain in the breasts. Swelling and redness are other important signs that can be seen in mastitis.
Is Mastitis Very Painful?
Mastitis can be a very painful condition. However, at times the pain might be absent. Mastitis can be seen without an infection as well. If the mastitis progresses to a next level, it might turn into an abscess, which refers to an accumulation of pus in the breast tissue. If a breastfeeding woman gets affected with mastitis it is called lactational mastitis or puerperal mastitis and, if a non-breastfeeding woman is affected with it, it is known as periductal mastitis. A person with mastitis feels as if she has caught a flu, the symptoms may be similar to that. Other signs and symptoms seen in mastitis are-
- Tenderness in the breast
- The breast feels warm to touch
- Redness and swelling are present
- Breast tissue thickening or presence of a lump
- Burning sensation or pain may be present always, or only during breastfeeding
- A feeling of malaise or generally being unwell may be present
- Fever may be present, which in some cases may be accompanied with chills
In a breastfeeding woman, the commonest cause of mastitis is milk stasis. Milk stasis occurs when the breast milk is not completely expressed out of the breast. There are many causes of milk stasis-
Improper latching of the baby to the breast:
- If the baby is not latched-on or attached properly to the breast, it may result in incomplete removal of breast milk.
Sucking problems in a baby:
- A baby ho has sucking problems like tongue-tie, may not be able to latch-on and feed properly
- This may result in incomplete removal of the breast milk
- If a baby has started sleeping through the nights or taking long naps, it may result in one or two missed feeds or infrequent feeding sessions
- As a result, the milk will not be removed completely and will get accumulated in the breasts
Feeding on one breast:
- If you consistently offer the same breast for feeding always, maybe due to reasons like a sore or cracked nipple on the other breast, it may mean an incomplete drainage of the breast milk
An injury to the breast:
- If there is a serious injury or a blow to the breast, the milk ducts or milk glands may get damaged resulting in milk stasis
Compression of the breasts:
- If you apply an unwanted pressure on the beasts, like by sleeping on your tummy or by wearing tight-fitting bras, it may cause damage to the milk ducts thereby causing milk stasis
All the above conditions cause the milk to get collected in the milk ducts. Fresh milk is not a source of an infection. However, accumulated milk can get infected and cause mastitis.
- In non-breastfeeding women, the most common cause of mastitis is an infection
- The infection is mostly caused by a bacterium called staphylococcus aureus
- The bacteria get into the milk duct through a sore or a cracked nipple
- It can also get into the ducts through a wound caused by nipple piercing
- This type of mastitis is known as periductal mastitis
- In rare conditions, mammary duct ectasia, which is an aging disorder of the breasts, can be a cause of mastitis in women who are not breastfeeding. It is usually seen in menopausal women
Mastitis is an inflammatory condition of the breasts. It may or may not be associated with an infection. Mastitis presents with symptoms like redness, swelling and itching. It may be very painful at times.