A rash can appear almost anywhere on the body, including between, around, or under the breasts.
A rash between the breasts can develop for various reasons, including heat, infection, or other severe conditions, such as cancer.
In this article, we examine some common causes and treatments for a rash between the breasts. We also look at when a person should get advice from their doctor.
A range of conditions can cause a rash between the breasts:
A heat rash typically appears on children and babies but can happen to people of any age.
Blocked sweat glands can cause little pimple-like bumps to appear around the openings. It is common in areas around folds in the skin.
Causes of heat rash include:
- hot, humid weather
- excessive exercise
- ointments that may block the skin
Treatment for heat rash typically involves preventive steps, such as:
- wearing clothing that allows the skin to dry and stay cool
- avoiding oils and other ointments on the skin
- staying cool during hot, humid weather
- keeping the area clean from oil and sweat
Intertrigo is a rash that occurs when skin rubs against skin. Causes of intertrigo may include:
- friction from skin rubbing against skin
- poor air circulation
If intertrigo occurs, a person may experience symptoms such as:
- cracking skin
- a rash
- itchy and raw skin that does not have an odor
Treatment for intertrigo often includes:
- keeping the area dry
- treating any infection of the skin
- reducing the amount of rubbing between the breast and other skin
- reducing moisture and swelling
Mastitis is typically inflammation or infection of one breast, often from a clogged milk duct.
When a person has mastitis, they may notice discolored streaks on or between the breasts. Other symptoms of mastitis can include:
- aches throughout the body
- pain in the breast
- a swollen, hot breast
Mastitis often occurs while breastfeeding due to a clogged milk duct or bacteria entering the breast. However, it can also happen at other times.
Treatment usually involves keeping the breast drained of milk. If the breast becomes infected, a person may require antibiotics to treat it.
A breast abscess is an infection occurring in the breast around the nipple or away from the nipple area.
According to the American Society of Breast Surgeons Foundation, a breast abscess can cause swelling and tenderness in the breast.
Treatment can vary based on the location of the abscess. Treatment often starts with antibiotics to treat the infection. If there is excessive fluid, a doctor may need to drain the fluid with a needle or an incision and drainage.
Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) is a rash that may occur during pregnancy.
The papules often appear around stretch marks, typically on the stomach area. If a person’s breasts have enlarged and caused stretch marks, PUPPP can also appear on the breasts.
According to an older article in American Family Physician, the standard treatment for PUPPP-related rashes includes topical corticosteroids and oral antihistamines. The rashes should clear following pregnancy.
Inflammatory breast cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer is an aggressive, fast-growing type of breast cancer.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, inflammatory breast cancer attacks the breast’s lymph vessels and skin.
Unlike other cancers of the breast, inflammatory breast cancer does not produce a distinct lump. However, when it blocks the lymph vessels, symptoms start to appear, such as:
- a rash or small insect type bite on the breast
- a swollen breast that may change in color
- skin that may look pitted
- changes to the nipple
Due to the aggressive nature of inflammatory breast cancer, most treatments target both the breast and other areas of the body simultaneously.
Treatments for inflammatory breast cancer may include:
A person should talk to their doctor about the best treatment options for them.
Paget’s disease is a rare form of breast cancer that affects the nipple area of the breast.
As cancer progresses, a person may experience an itchy, scaly rash around the nipple.
Treatment will vary based on the person’s physical condition and whether or not cancer is present in other areas of the breast or body.
Treatment for Paget’s disease may involve:
- radiation therapy
- targeted therapy
- hormone therapy
Other underlying conditions
Several conditions can cause rashes to appear on various parts of the body.
Some conditions that may cause a rash to form between or around the breasts include:
- contact dermatitis — an allergic reaction to a substance or clothing that causes a rash
- shingles — a rash that can appear on either side of the body or chicken-pox-like rash over the entire body
- inverse psoriasis — a rash that appears around skin folds such as under the breasts or between them
Treatments for skin conditions will vary based on the underlying condition causing the rash.
For contact dermatitis, a person should avoid or remove the substance causing the reaction. Psoriasis requires treatment from a medical professional to help suppress the symptoms. For shingles, a doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to help reduce the severity of the rash.
A person may not need to see their doctor if their rash:
- is not severe
- clears up in a few days
- has a known cause
- does not have any accompanying symptoms
However, the American Academy of Dermatology Association recommend that a person sees their doctor if the rash:
- covers the whole body
- appears suddenly and spreads fast
- causes pain
- appears infected
- occurs with a fever
- starts to blister
In many cases, a rash will clear within a few days with or without treatment. The exact outlook depends on what is causing the rash.
An allergic reaction should disappear once the person is not in contact with the allergen. However, a person living with inflammatory breast cancer will need extensive treatment to clear the rash.
A person should talk to their doctor about their outlook with treatment.
A person may not be able to prevent all rashes. However, a person could take some steps to prevent their appearance.
On hot days, a person should take breaks in cool areas and wear breathable clothing. A person who develops contact dermatitis should avoid things that bother their skin.
Finally, treating underlying conditions can help prevent future rashes from occurring or being as severe.
Several different causes and underlying conditions can cause a rash between the breasts.
Sometimes, a person can identify what is causing their rashes, such as an allergic reaction or heat rash.
In other cases, a person may need to see their doctor for diagnosis and treatment of an underlying condition, such as inflammatory breast cancer or shingles.
Treatment and outlook will depend on the exact cause of the rash and the person’s overall health.