“It occurs almost exclusively in women who are breastfeeding”-Mastitis

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Mastitis is a condition in which a woman’s breast tissue becomes abnormally swollen or inflamed. It is usually caused by an infection of the breast ducts. It occurs almost exclusively in women who are breastfeeding. Severe cases of mastitis can be fatal if left untreated.

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Types of Mastitis

Mastitis can occur either with or without infection. If the inflammation occurs without infection, it is usually caused by milk stasis. Milk stasis is the buildup of milk within the breast tissue of lactating women.

However, inflammation caused by milk stasis typically progresses to inflammation with infection. This is because the stagnant milk provides an environment in which bacteria can grow. Mastitis caused by an infection is the most common form.

Causes of Mastitis

The causes of mastitis include:

Bacterial infection: Bacteria are normally found on the skin. Everyone has them, and they are normally harmless. But if bacteria are able to break through the skin, they can cause an infection. If bacteria enter the breast tissue, due to a break in the skin near or around the nipple, they may cause mastitis.

Obstruction of a milk duct: Milk ducts carry milk from the breast glands to the nipple. When these ducts are blocked, milk builds up within the breast and causes inflammation and may result in infection.

Risk factors

The following may increase the risk of developing mastitis:

Breastfeeding for the first few weeks after childbirth

Sore or cracked nipples

Using only one position to breastfeed

Wearing a tight fitting bra

Previous episodes of mastitis

Extreme tiredness or fatigue

Symptoms of Mastitis

Breast enlargement

Redness, swelling, tenderness, or a sensation of warmth on the breast

Itching over the breast tissue

Tenderness under your arm

Small cut or wound in the nipple or on the skin of the breast

Fever

Diagnosis

Most cases of mastitis are diagnosed clinically. A doctor will ask you questions about the condition and then give you a physical examination.

The doctor may wish to know when you first noticed the inflammation and how painful it is. He or she will also ask about other symptoms, whether you are lactating, and whether you are on any medications.

Treatment

Antibiotics: specific antibiotics can eradicate the bacterial infection causing mastitis.

Ibuprofen: this is an over-the-counter drug that can be used to decrease the pain, fever, and swelling associated with mastitis.

Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen can also be used to decrease pain and fever.

Surgical procedure called incision and drainage. During this procedure, the doctor will make a small incision to help drain any abscesses that have formed due to the infection.

It is important to note that breastfeeding mothers are still able to breastfeed during treatment. The infection is in the breast tissue and not in the milk. Breastfeeding may also help speed the treatment process.

Prevention

Prevention of irritation and cracking of the nipple

Regular breastfeeding

Use of a breast pump

Using a proper breastfeeding technique that allows for good latching by the infant

Take time to wean the baby over several weeks, instead of suddenly stopping breastfeeding.

 



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