What Can Happen If Mastitis Is Left Untreated?

Mastitis arises when the breast tissue becomes inflamed. This could be due to the presence of bacteria or buildup of milk in the milk ducts within the breast. Depending on how the infection is affecting the breast, mastitis can either be considered to be infectious or non-infectious. The former is when the infection spreads throughout the breast, whereas the latter is when there is only irritation to the breast. In cases of non-infectious mastitis, it can easily clear up with a few home remedies that help drain blocked milk ducts. On the other hand, infectious mastitis needs more attention by monitoring one’s symptoms. If you are not keen enough, you could develop further complications such as an abscess in the breast.

What Can Happen If Mastitis Is Left Untreated?

What Can Happen If Mastitis Is Left Untreated?

Mastitis needs immediate treatment or rather resolution immediately, as it can turn ugly real fast. The first indicators of arising complications with mastitis is the engorgement of the breast as well as milk stasis. It is therefore important that you pay attention to these warning signs, and seeks medical attention if you had not before. Engorgement of the breast can arise due to various factors such as missed feedings, baby’s incapability to drain the breast well, wearing tight bras or bras with an underwire, and stress.

The development of an abscess, which is the worst complication of mastitis is rare and occurs about five percent of the time. An abscess refers to a pocket of pus that has collected in the area behind the nipple, which leads to a firm, red and tender lump on the breast. To treat the abscess, you will have to visit a hospital to drain out the pus with a syringe or have the pus surgically drained via a small incision. In addition to that, you will need to take antibiotics to help with the total treatment of the abscess and mastitis as well. As a nursing mother, it is important that if you develop an abscess, that you do not breastfeed from the affected breast. This is because the milk tastes salty, and is usually unhealthy for the baby.

Mastitis In Lactating Women

Mastitis is most common in women who are pregnant or nursing. However, even non-lactating women can develop the condition, say, from the entry of mastitis-causing bacteria via a bruised, cracked, or pierced nipple. Lactating women who are susceptible to mastitis include new mothers, women in their late pregnancy, and those who abruptly stop breastfeeding and start weaning their babies. Normally, the first phase of mastitis is usually a blocked milk duct, which arises from flow back of milk in the duct, thus causing an obstruction. The blocked milk duct can then escalate to an infection, which is referred to as mastitis. When the breasts become engorged, it is necessary to express the milk, either by nursing your baby or using a pump to drain out the milk. That is because any milk that may remain can cause a blocked milk duct or mastitis to worsen, and intensifies one’s symptoms. The common symptoms of mastitis are tenderness and lumps in the breast, pain, high fever (101 Fahrenheit or higher), aches, redness and warm feeling around the affected breast area.

Treating Mastitis

Mastitis can be treated either with antibiotic therapy or home remedies such as the use of hot compressors, massage therapy, and nursing frequently. If you are not comfortable taking antibiotics with the fear that they will have a negative impact on your baby, you will have to try various home remedies, around the clock to help resolve the infection. It is crucial that you express the milk properly so as to avoid engorgement, you can do so by feeding your baby over regular intervals or using a power pump to drain the milk. Massaging and use of hot compressions help soften the lump within the obstructed region and clear it out, thus restoring normal milk flow in the milk ducts. You should also eat well, drink plenty of water and rest enough to allow the body to fight against the infection. In addition to that, you can take probiotics and eat raw garlic to boost your immunity.


Mastitis is painful and it can take a while to clear out depending on how you are going about treating the infection. If you are vigilant in managing the infection, then it will clear out sooner than later. However, if you ignore it, it can lead to further complications including milk stasis, intensified symptoms, engorgement of the breast, and at worst, development of an abscess. To avoid the unbearable complications that arise from an untreated mastitis, ensure that you deal with the infection early enough, to save yourself the pain and the hassle.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 5, 2023

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