Mastitis or breast infection is inflammation of the breast tissue. This condition generally occurs in breastfeeding mothers, especially in the first 6-12 weeks after delivery.

Mastitis usually only affects one breast, but does not rule out the possibility of both breasts. Mastitis makes it difficult for sufferers to breastfeed so that breastfeeding activities are hampered or stopped.

However, breastfeeding should still be done because this condition is not dangerous for the baby. The antibacterial content in breast milk protects the baby from infection and even speeds up the healing of mastitis.

Causes of Mastitis

Mastitis is usually experienced by nursing mothers. Even so, this condition can also be experienced by women who are not breastfeeding and women who have gone through menopause. In fact, in rare cases, mastitis can also occur in men.

The following is an explanation of the causes of mastitis in breastfeeding mothers and in women who are not breastfeeding:

In nursing mothers

In nursing mothers, mastitis is caused by a buildup of milk in the breast glands, causing blockages in the milk ducts. The buildup causes a blockage in the milk ducts. As a result, bacteria from the surface of the baby's skin or mouth can enter from the skin or nipple gaps, causing infection.

Blockage of the milk ducts can be triggered by several things, namely:

  • Improper position of the baby's mouth when feeding
  • The baby is not breastfeeding enough
  • Breastfeeding is not done regularly
  • Too much milk is produced
  • The process of weaning the baby is too fast
  • Too frequent feeding from one breast

In women who are not breastfeeding

Although rare, mastitis can occur in women who are not breastfeeding and in men. This condition can be caused by several things, such as:

  • Injury to the breast
  • Low immunity, for example in a person who is undergoing radiotherapy
  • Medical conditions, such as diabetes , chronic illness, or HIV/AIDS
  • Skin diseases, such as eczema
  • Shaving or plucking hair around the nipples
  • Piercings in the breast
  • Breast implant installation

Mastitis risk factors

There are several factors that can increase the risk of breast infection or mastitis, namely:

  • Have had a previous breast infection
  • Too tired or stressed
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Smoking
  • Doing strenuous exercise, especially in the upper body
  • Using a bra that is too tight

Symptoms of Mastitis

In the early stages, symptoms of mastitis generally occur in one breast and can occur suddenly. These symptoms include:

  • Swelling of the breasts
  • The breasts are red and feel warm
  • Breasts feel painful when touched
  • Pain or burning sensation in the breast that occurs continuously or while breastfeeding

Apart from these symptoms, there are several other complaints that can accompany it, namely:

  • Fever
  • Shivering
  • The body feels tired and weak
  • Body aches
  • Nauseous
  • Discharge containing pus from the nipple
  • A lump appears in the breast
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit or neck area

When to see a doctor

Check with your doctor if you experience any worrying symptoms in your breasts, such as:

  • Breast pain that interferes with daily activities
  • Changes in the shape or texture of the breast
  • New lumps appear
  • Nipples discharge
  • Symptoms of mastitis that get worse within 24 hours of being treated with antibiotics or self-medication at home

Examination should be done immediately if you experience symptoms of mastitis and are not breastfeeding.

Diagnosis Mastitis

As a first step, the doctor will ask about the patient's symptoms and medical history. A physical examination will also be carried out to detect lumps in the breast.

For nursing mothers who continue to experience recurrence of infection, the doctor will examine a sample of breast milk in the laboratory. The examination aims to detect the presence of bacteria that cause infection and determine the type of antibiotic that is suitable for the patient.

Doctors will also advise patients, whether they are breastfeeding or not, to undergo further tests if there is suspicion of other diseases, including:

  • Breast ultrasound , to detect and examine lumps or tumors in the breast
  • Mammography, to detect signs of breast cancer
  • Breast biopsy, which is a laboratory examination of a sample of breast tissue to detect the possibility of cancer cells
  • Blood culture, if mastitis continues to worsen

Treatment of Mastitis

In nursing mothers with mild symptoms, mastitis should be treated with self-medication first. There are several actions you can take at home to relieve the symptoms you are experiencing, namely:

  • Apply a warm compress to the infected area of ​​the breast to relieve pain. Do it for 15 minutes, 4 times a day.
  • Take pain relievers, such as iburofen and paracetamol , to help relieve pain.
  • Get plenty of rest and drink fluids.
  • Consume healthy food and contain balanced nutrition.
  • Avoid wearing clothes and bras that are too tight.
  • Massage the breasts to clear the blockage, especially by massaging the lump or painful area. Massage is done slowly towards the nipple to expedite the flow of milk.

In addition, mastitis symptoms can also be relieved by several breastfeeding techniques, such as:

  • Start breastfeeding with the breast that is swollen.
  • Make sure the position of the baby's mouth is correct and the baby can suck milk properly .
  • Perform regular breastfeeding activities every 2 hours in different positions.
  • Express milk from the breast using a breast pump or hands when the breast feels full.
  • Consult a doctor to increase knowledge about good breastfeeding techniques and positions.

If mastitis in nursing mothers cannot be treated independently, or occurs in women who are not breastfeeding, the doctor can give antibiotics to be consumed for 10-14 days.

Mastitis will generally improve within 2–3 days of starting treatment. However, antibiotics should still be consumed until they run out so that the infection does not reappear.

It is important to remember that breastfeeding while suffering from mastitis is safe to do even if the mother is taking antibiotics. Breast milk contains antibacterials that can help babies fight infections.

In addition, breastfeeding can help with infection because it helps clear congestion. Conversely, weaning the baby suddenly can exacerbate the infection.

Mastitis complications

Mastitis that is handled late can cause several complications, namely:

  • Breast
    abscess An abscess is a pus-filled lump that forms in the breast and is painful. In this condition, a small operation is needed to remove the pus from the breast.
  • Fungal infections
    Overuse of antibiotics can trigger an overgrowth of yeast in the body. This condition can cause a yeast infection in the breast, which is characterized by reddish nipples, as well as pain and heat in the breast.

Prevention of Mastitis

There are several breast care measures that can be taken to prevent mastitis, namely:

  • Compress the breast with a warm towel to increase milk flow.
  • Use a different technique or position when breastfeeding.
  • Use alternate breasts while breastfeeding.
  • Empty the breast completely while breastfeeding to prevent engorgement and blockage of the milk ducts.
  • Use a breast pump to empty the breast if the baby has stopped breastfeeding and the breast is not completely empty.
  • Don't change your breastfeeding schedule suddenly.
  • Avoid using soap when cleaning the nipples.
  • Massage the breasts regularly to improve milk ducts.
  • Make sure your breasts are always dry by changing your bra or breast pads when they get wet.
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
  • Avoid using bras that are too tight.
  • Wash hands and clean nipples before and after feeding.
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