What is a breast abscess?
A breast abscess is a collection of pus in the breast. It is usually caused by 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 of the breast tissue. Germs can enter the breast through the nipple when breast-feeding, or through cracks in the nipple or areola. If the infection is not treated, an abscess may develop. Mastitis, which is inflammation of the breast caused by bacterial infection — usually when breast-feeding — 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 breast-feeding should continue as it will help clear the ducts. Your doctor will be able to advise you; and
- Take simple painkillers.
What your doctor can do for you
If you think you have mastitis or a breast abscess, you should seek help from your doctor. They 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 dry the breast thoroughly with a clean towel.
- After breast-feeding, wipe the nipples and areolae with sterilised cotton dipped in boiled 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: 12 January 2004