Breast abscesses

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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
  • fever.

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.

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