Breast Abscess

BASIC INFORMATION

DESCRIPTION

An infected area of breast tissue that becomes filled with pus when the body fights the infection. It involves breast tissue, milk glands, and milk ducts.

FREQUENT SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

  • Breast pain, tenderness, redness or hardness.
  • Fever and chills.
  • A general ill feeling.
  • Tender lymph glands in the underarm area.

CAUSES

Bacteria that enter the breast through the nipple (usually a cracked nipple during the early days of breast-feeling).

RISK INCREASES WITH

  • Postpartum pelvic infection.
  • Diabetes mellitus.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Use of steroid medication.
  • Heavy cigarette smoking.
  • Lumpectomy with radiation.
  • Silicone implants.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES

  • Clean the nipples and breasts thoroughly and after nursing.
  • Lubricate the nipples after nursing with vitamin A & D ointment or other topical medication if recommended.
  • Avoid clothing that irritates the breasts.
  • Don’t allow a nursing infant to chew nipples.

EXPECTED OUTCOME

Usually curable in 8 to 10 days with treatment. Draining the abscess is occasionally necessary to hasten healing.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS

  • It is rarely necessary to discontinue breastfeeding even with severe infection. Occasionally, certain antibiotics (especially tetracycline) and pain relievers will require that breast-feeding be discontinued for a brief period of time and it will be necessary to pump the breasts.
  • Rarely, a fistula (abnormal passage between two organs or between the body and the outside) may develop.

TREATMENT
GENERAL MEASURES

  • Use warm water (or cold water if it is more soothing) soaks to relieve pain and hasten healing.
  • Discontinue nursing the baby from the infected breast until it heals. Use a breast until you can resume nursing on that side.
  • Surgery to drain the abscess (infrequent).

MEDICATION

  • Antibiotics, if needed to fight infection.
  • Prescription pain medication should generally be required only for 2 to 7 days following the procedure.

ACTIVITY

After treatment, resume normal activity as soon as symptoms improve.

DIET

No special diet.

NOTIFY OUR OFFICE IF

  • You or a family member has symptoms of a breast abscess.
  • Any of the following occur during treatment:
    • Fever.
    • Pain becomes unbearable.
    • Infection seems to be spreading, despite treatment.
    • Symptoms don’t improve in 72 hours.
  • New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drug used in treatment may produce side effects.