Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that results in breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness of the breast. If you have mastitis, you might also experience fever and chills. Mastitis most commonly affects women who are breast-feeding (lactation mastitis), although sometimes this condition can occur in women who aren't breast-feeding.
With mastitis, signs and symptoms can appear suddenly and may include:
- Breast tenderness or warmth to the touch
- Generally feeling ill (malaise)
- Swelling of the breast
- Pain or a burning sensation continuously or while breast-feeding
- Skin redness, often in a wedge-shaped pattern
- Fever of 101 F (38.3 C) or greater
Although mastitis usually occurs in the first several weeks of breast-feeding, it can happen anytime during breast-feeding. Lactation mastitis tends to affect only one breast — not both breasts.
Mastitis treatment usually involves:
- Antibiotics. Treating mastitis usually requires a 10- to 14-day course of antibiotics. You may feel well again 24 to 48 hours after starting antibiotics, but it's important to take the entire course of medication to minimize your chance of recurrence.
- Pain relievers. While waiting for the antibiotic to take effect, your doctor may recommend a mild pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others).
- Adjustments to your breast-feeding technique. Make sure that you fully empty your breasts during breast-feeding and that your infant latches on correctly. Your doctor may review your breast-feeding technique with you or may refer you to a lactation consultant for help and ongoing support.
- Self-care. Rest, continue breast-feeding and drink extra fluids to help your body fight the breast infection.
If your mastitis doesn't clear up after taking antibiotics, check back with your doctor.
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