What is breast abscess?

A breast abscess is a painful infection brought on by bacteria. The type of bacteria that most frequently produces breast infection is Staphylococcus aureus. Bacteria can enter through a crack in the skin of the breast or on the nipple. The resulting infection, called mastitis, invades the fatty tissue of the breast, leading to swelling and pressure on the milk ducts. An abscess is a hollow space in the breast that becomes filled with pus from the infected milk ducts. A breast abscess can develop in the presence of severe mastitis.

Breast infection can affect all women but occurs most often in women who are breastfeeding. A small percentage, 2% to 3%, of breastfeeding (lactating) women typically experience mastitis. In lactating women, an abscess can be successfully treated with antibiotics, but usually also requires surgical drainage. Your health care provider may tell you to temporarily stop breastfeeding if you have an abscess.

In women who are not breastfeeding, an abscess is generally considered a benign lesion of the breast. Mastitis without abscess can be treated with antibiotics.

Seek prompt medical care if any portion of the breast becomes reddened, tender, swollen or hot and also if the lymph nodes in the armpit become tender or swollen. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you are breastfeeding and develop the following symptoms suggestive of a widespread infection:

  • Confusion or loss of consciousness for even a brief moment
  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
  • Dramatic decrease in urine output
  • Fainting or change in level of consciousness or lethargy
  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of breast abscess?

Symptoms of breast abscess include pain and swelling in the breast, fever and nipple discharge. The severity of the symptoms can vary.

Common symptoms of breast abscess

The most common symptoms of breast abscess include:

CAUSES

What causes breast abscess?

Breast abscess is caused by a bacterial infection. The most common type of bacteria involved in a breast abscess is Staphylococcus aureus. Bacteria enter through a scratch in the skin or a tear in the nipple. The resulting infection, called mastitis, invades the fatty tissue of the breast and leads to swelling and pressure on the milk ducts. An abscess, or painful, pus-filled lump, can develop ... Read more about breast abscesscauses

TREATMENTS

How is breast abscess treated?

Treatment for breast abscess begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. An abscess can generally be diagnosed based on your description of symptoms and a physical exam by your health care provider.

Your health care provider may choose to administer tests such as a white blood cell count (WBC). A WBC test will measure the extent of the body’s immune reaction. ... Read more about breast abscesstreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.