What is a breast abscess?
A breast abscess is a localised collection of pus in the breast tissue. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection.
Symptoms of breast abscesses
The signs and symptoms of breast abscesses are:
- pain in the affected breast;
- redness, swelling, and tenderness in an area of the breast; and
What causes breast abscesses?
Breast abscesses are usually caused by a bacterial infection, which most commonly occurs when a woman is breast-feeding. The bacteria can enter the breast through the nipple during breast-feeding, or through cracks in the nipple or areola (the darkened area around the nipple). If the infection is not treated, an abscess may develop. Mastitis, which is inflammation of the breast caused by a bacterial infection, can progress to a breast abscess if it is not treated with antibiotics.
What you can do
- Consult a doctor at the first sign of breast infection.
- Do not breast-feed with the infected breast if you have an abscess. However, if you have mastitis then continue to breast-feed as this will help to clear the milk ducts in the breast. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the approach you should take.
- Take simple painkillers such as paracetamol or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAID).
What your doctor can do for you
If you think you have mastitis or a breast abscess, you should seek help from your doctor who can:
- prescribe antibiotics; and
- arrange for you to have minor surgery to drain out the pus.
Preventing breast abscesses
- Keep the breasts clean by washing them daily with mild soap and water. Wipe off dried secretions and gently dry the breast thoroughly with a clean towel.
- After breast-feeding, wipe the nipples and areolae with sterilised cotton dipped in boiled, cooled water.
- At the end of a feed, allow your breasts to dry naturally in the air.
- Apply lanolin cream daily to the nipples and areolae to prevent them from cracking.
Last Reviewed: 06 November 2009
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(accessed June 2010).
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