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 in rare circumstances this condition can occur outside of lactation.
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The term mastitis is from the Greek word mastos, for breast, and itis, for inflammation of. The response to injury to the udder of sheep is called inflammation. Mastitis is the reaction of milk -secreting tissue to injury produced by physical force, chemicals introduced into the gland or most commonly from bacteria and their toxins.
Click to see the picture :Udder of a of a Roux du Valais sheep after a healed mastitis, one teat was lost due to the disease.
In most cases, lactation mastitis occurs within the first three months after giving birth (postpartum), but it can happen later during breast-feeding. The condition can leave you feeling exhausted and rundown, making it difficult to care for your baby.
Sometimes mastitis leads a mother mistakenly to wean her baby before she intends to. But you can continue breast-feeding while you have mastitis.
It is called puerperal mastitis when it occurs in lactating mothers and non-puerperal otherwise. Mastitis can occur in men, albeit rarely. Inflammatory breast cancer has symptoms very similar to mastitis and must be ruled out.
The popular misconception that mastitis in humans is an infection is highly misleading and in many cases incorrect. Infections play only a minor role in the pathogenesis of both puerperal and nonpuerperal mastitis in humans and many cases of mastitis are completely aseptic under normal hygienic conditions. Infection as primary cause of mastitis is presumed to be more prevalent in veterinary mastitis and poor hygienic conditions.
The symptoms are similar for puerperal and nonpuerperal mastitis but predisposing factors and treatment can be very different.
Click to see the picture Serous exudate from bovine udder in E. coli mastitis at left. Normal milk at right.
Puerperal mastitis is the inflammation of breast in connection with pregnancy, breastfeeding or weaning. Since one of the most prominent symptoms is tension and engourgement of the breast, it is thought to be caused by blocked milk ducts or milk excess. It is relatively common, estimates range depending on methodology between 5-33%. However only about 0.4-0.5% of breastfeeding mothers develop an abscess.
The term nonpuerperal mastitis describes inflammatory lesions of the breast occurring unrelated to pregnancy and breastfeeding. This article includes description of mastitis as well as various kinds of mammary abscesses. Skin related conditions like dermatitis and foliculitis are a separate entity.
Names for non-puerperal mastitis are not used very consistently and include Mastitis, Subareolar Abscess, Duct Ectasia, Periductal Inflammation, Zuska’s Disease and others.
Lactation mastitis usually affects only one breast and the symptoms can develop quickly. The signs and symptoms usually appear suddenly and they include:
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*Breast tenderness or warmth to the touch
*General malaise or feeling ill
*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 
*The affected breast can then start to appear lumpy and red.
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Some women may also experience flu-like symptoms such as:
*Shivering and chills
*Feeling anxious or stressed
Contact should be made with a health care provider with special breastfeeding competence as soon as the patient recognizes the combination of signs and symptoms. Most of the women first experience the flu-like symptoms and just after they may notice a sore red area on the breast. Also, women should seek medical care if they notice any abnormal discharge from the nipples, if breast pain is making it difficult to function each day or they have prolonged, unexplained breast pain.
Since the 1980s mastitis has often been divided into non-infectious and infectious sub-groups. However, recent research  suggests that it may not be feasible to make divisions in this way. It has been shown that types and amounts of potentially pathogenic bacteria in breast milk are not correlated to the severity of symptoms. Moreover, although only 15% of women with mastitis in Kvist et al.’s study were given antibiotics, all recovered and few had recurring symptoms. Many healthy breastfeeding women wishing to donate breast milk have potentially pathogenic bacteria in their milk but have no symptoms of mastitis.
Mastitis typically develops when the milk is not properly removed from the breast. Milk stasis can lead to the milk ducts in the breasts becoming blocked, as the breast milk not being properly and regularly expressed. It has also been suggested that blocked milk ducts can occur as a result of pressure on the breast, such as tight-fitting clothing or an over-restrictive bra, although there is sparse evidence for this supposition . Mastitis may occur when the baby is not appropriately attached to the breast while feeding, when the baby has infrequent feeds or has problems suckling the milk out of the breast.
Experts are still unsure why breast milk can cause the breast tissue to become inflamed. One theory is that it may be due to the presence of cytokines in breast milk. Cytokines are special proteins that are used by the immune system and are passed on to the baby in order to help them resist infection. It may be the case that the woman’s immune system mistakes these cytokines for a bacterial or viral infection and responds by inflaming the breast tissue in an attempt to stop the spread of what the body perceives as an infection.
Some women (approximately 15% in Kvist et al. study) will require antibiotic treatment for infection which is usually caused by bacteria from the skin or the baby’s mouth that entering the milk ducts through skin lesions of the nipple or through the opening of the nipple. Infection is usually caused by staphylococcus aureus.
Mastitis is quite common among breastfeeding women. The WHO estimates that although incidences vary between 2.6% and 33%, the prevalence globally is approximately 10% of breastfeeding women. Most mothers who develop mastitis usually do so within the first few weeks after delivery. Most breast infections occur within the first or second month after delivery or at the time of weaning. However, in rare cases it affects women who are not breastfeeding.
Mastitis can also develop after nipple piercing. In some rare cases, however, Mastitis can occur in men.
Women who are breastfeeding are at risk for developing mastitis especially if they have sore or cracked nipples or have had mastitis before while breastfeeding another baby. Also, the chances of getting mastitis increases if women use only one position to breastfeed or wear a tight-fitting bra, which may restrict milk flow
Women with diabetes, chronic illness, AIDS, or an impaired immune system may be more susceptible to the development of mastitis.
Complications that may arise from mastitis include recurrence, milk stasis and abscess. The abscess is the most severe complication that women can get from this condition. Also, women who have had mastitis once are likely to develop it again with a future child or with the same infant. Recurrence appears especially in cases of delayed or inadequate treatment.
Milk stasis is another complication that may arise from mastitis and it occurs when the milk is not completely drained from the breast. This causes increased pressure on the ducts and leakage of milk into surrounding breast tissue, which can lead to pain and inflammation.
Delayed treatment or inadequate treatment, especially in mastitis related to milk stasis, may lead to the formation of an abscess within the breast tissue. An abscess is a collection of pus that develops into the breast which ultimately requires surgical drainage.
The diagnosis of mastitis and breast abscess can usually be made based on a physical examination. The doctor will also take into account the signs and symptoms of the condition.
However, if the doctor is not sure whether the mass is an abscess or a tumor, an ultrasound may be performed. The ultrasound provides a clear image of the breast tissue and may be helpful in distinguishing between simple mastitis and abscess or in diagnosing an abscess deep in the breast. The test consists of placing an ultrasound probe over the breast.
In cases of infectious mastitis, cultures may be needed in order to determine what type of organism is causing the infection. Cultures are helpful in deciding the specific type of antibiotics that will be used in curing the disease. These cultures may be taken either from the breast milk or of the material aspirated from an abscess.
Mammograms or breast biopsies are normally performed on women who do not respond to treatment or on non-breastfeeding women. This type of tests is sometimes ordered to exclude the possibility of a rare type of breast cancer which causes symptoms similar to those of mastitis.
If you develop a painful, red or swollen breast, and especially if you have generalized symptoms such as a fever, it’s important to see your doctor because there may be infection that needs treatment with antibiotics.
You should try to continue breastfeeding. Although mastitis may interfere with breastfeeding – because the breasts become distorted in shape, for example – it is often the best treatment because it empties the breast.
In fact it’s important to persevere, because otherwise engorged breasts rapidly lead to a fall in milk production, as the body sees it as a signal that more milk is being produced than is needed.
With engorgement, if the affected area is not drained there’s a risk of infection developing. Try to give frequent feeds varying the position of the baby (many recommend a position where the baby’s chin points towards the affected area). Offer the affected breast first for the best chance of good drainage.
You can also try massaging the affected area of the breast as you feed, and applying warmth to the area.
There’s no risk to the baby from infection being passed on in the milk, so this is not a reason to stop feeding.
You can try to relieve the symptoms with cooling treatments – everything from cabbage leaves to cold flannels to gel-filled cool packs. Gentle breast massage can also help. If there is no infection, medicines are often not very effective in resolving the mastitis but may help with symptoms.
Paracetamol or ibuprofen may ease pain and reduce fever for example. These are usually safe although ibuprofen can get through into breast milk in small amounts – this doesn’t usually do any harm but you should check with your GP if your baby was born prematurely, had a low birth weight or any other medical problems. Paracetamol can also pass through into breast milk in tiny amounts but is thought to be even less likely to do harm.
Lifestyle and home remedies :
If you have mastitis, it’s safe to continue breast-feeding. Continuing breast-feeding offers the added benefit of helping clear the infection in your breast.
To relieve your discomfort:
*Maintain your breast-feeding routine.
*Get as much rest as possible.
*Avoid prolonged engorgement before breast-feeding.
*Use varied positions to breast-feed.
*Drink plenty of fluids.
*If you have trouble emptying a portion of your breast, apply warm compresses to the breast or take a warm shower before breast-feeding or pumping milk.
*Wear a supportive bra.
*While waiting for the antibiotics to take effect, take a mild pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others).
If breast-feeding on the infected breast is too painful or your infant refuses to nurse on that breast, try pumping or hand-expressing milk.
To get your breast-feeding relationship with your infant off to its best possible start — and to avoid complications such as mastitis — consider making an appointment with a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant can give you tips and provide invaluable advice for proper breast-feeding technique.
Minimize your chances of getting mastitis by fully draining the milk from your breasts while breast-feeding. Allow your baby to completely empty one breast before switching to the other breast during feeding. If your baby nurses for only a few minutes on the second breast — or not at all — start breast-feeding on that breast the next time you feed your baby.
Alternate the breast you offer first at each breast-feeding, and change the position you use to breast-feed from one feeding to the next. Make sure your baby latches on properly during feedings. Finally, don’t let your baby use your breast as a pacifier. Babies enjoy sucking and often find comfort in suckling at the breast even when they’re not hungry
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose