A breast abscess is a pus-filled lump that grows under the skin as a result of an infection. These abscesses usually form during breastfeeding, but anyone, regardless of sex, can develop one.
This article describes what a breast abscess is and explores the causes, symptoms, and treatments. It also looks at how to prevent the issue and when to see a doctor.
A breast abscess is a painful, pus-filled lump under the skin of the breast.
These lumps are
As the authors of the
Lactational breast abscesses typically occur due to an infection with Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcal bacteria.
When lactation is not involved, a breast abscess
An infection in the breast can occur when:
- bacteria enters through cracks in the nipple
- a milk duct is clogged
- foreign material enters the area, as with a nipple piercing or breast implant
If a person has developed a breast abscess, they may feel or notice a mass in the breast tissue along with symptoms of an infection of the breast. These symptoms may
They may also request an ultrasound or take a biopsy of the fluid inside the lump.
Doctors may need to drain the fluid from the lump. They may extract the fluid with a needle or drain it by making a small cut in the skin.
Doctors typically use needle aspiration if the person is lactating or if the mass is smaller than
For people who develop these abscesses and are not lactating, there is a
If the drained abscess leaves a large cavity, a healthcare professional will need to pack it, to help drainage and healing.
Over-the-counter drugs, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help relieve the pain. A person can also use a warm compress to soothe inflammation.
Applying a moisturizer to the nipples can help keep them from cracking and providing a way for bacteria to enter the body and cause mastitis.
Anyone who has mastitis should receive treatment as soon as possible. If a person has symptoms of this infection for longer than 24 hours, they should speak to a doctor and ask for antibiotics.
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), if a person is breastfeeding, they should avoid:
- having breasts that are very full for very long
- any sudden long periods between feedings
- pressure on the breasts from fingers, bras, or other clothing
It may also help to focus on good attachment during feeding. Signs of good attachment include:
- breastfeeding without pain
- the darker skin around the nipple showing more above the baby’s top lip than below their bottom lip
- the baby having a wide, open mouth
- the chin firmly touching the breast
- the baby having rounded, full cheeks
- rapid sucks that turn into slow, deep sucks
According to the Office on Women’s Health, who has mastitis symptoms for longer than 24 hours should speak to a doctor and ask for antibiotics.
Anyone who thinks that they may have a breast abscess should seek medical attention.
Contact a doctor right away if there is:
- a possible infection in both breasts
- pus or blood in breast milk
- red streaks on or near the affected area of the breast
- symptoms of mastitis that come on very suddenly
- severe symptoms of mastitis
Breast abscesses are painful, pus-filled lumps under the skin of the breast. They are a complication of a breast infection, which is called mastitis.
Mastitis tends to affect women who are breastfeeding, but anyone can develop this type of infection and a resulting abscess. People who smoke or who have obesity may have a higher risk.
Anyone who suspects that they have a breast abscess or who has had symptoms of mastitis for more than 24 hours should speak to a doctor.