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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Breast Infection

Breast Infection

Alternate Names : Mastitis

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

A breast infection involves an infection of the breast tissue and/or the milk ducts of the breast.

What is going on in the body?

Breast infections are most common in women who are breast-feeding. Bacteria can get into the milk ducts through a crack in the nipple and cause an infection. Incomplete emptying of breast milk during feedings can contribute to the problem. Milk ducts can become blocked. A breast infection can also occur when bacteria enter the tissue through an opening on the skin.

What are the causes and risks of the infection?

Breast infections are caused when bacteria enter the milk-producing ducts or an open area on the breast. They are more likely when the flow of milk is blocked or restricted. Factors that increase a woman's risk for breast infection include the following:

  • blocked milk duct
  • breast abnormalities, such as those following breast surgery
  • cigarette smoking
  • conditions that lower resistance to infection, including anemia, stress, and diabetes
  • exercising the upper arm too much, such as shoveling snow
  • fibrocystic changes in the breast
  • going too long between breast-feeding sessions
  • incorrect positioning of the baby during breast-feeding
  • irregular breast-feeding
  • nipple shields
  • objects that press on the breast, such as heavy shoulder bags
  • past injuries to the breast
  • skipping feedings
  • stopping breast-feeding suddenly
  • teething pain in the infant
  • tight clothing, such as underwire bras


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    Breast Infection: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Dr. Karen Wolfe, MBBS, MA
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 08/20/01

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