Mastitis – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Mastitis refers to an inflamed breast tissue that often involves some degree of inflammation and infection. This is most common in lactating women but can also occur in non-pregnant and non-lactating women resulting due to a cracked nipple or an infected piercing. Mastitis can develop into an abscess if it is not taken care of and can be life-threatening.

Location of pain

Can occur in one or both breasts depending upon the cause.

Character of pain

The pain is usually pinching in character, the breast is tender to touch and is accompanied by itching.


  • Breast tenderness
  • Mastalgia/mastodynia
  • Itching
  • Swollen breast
  • Redness
  • Infected tissue has a slightly higher temperature than surrounding tissues.
  • Fever and chills
  • Pain extending to the armpit area.
  • Milk supply can be decreased.
  • Curd-like milk is often produced.
  • Milk can also contain blood, mucus, or pus.


The lactiferous glands and ducts present in the breast open in the nipple. Often the duct gets plugged due to several causes and leads to accumulation and stasis of milk in the breast. This provides the breeding ground for bacterial growth. There are a number of causes that can lead to Mastitis, some of these are:

  • Infrequent breastfeeding
  • Ineffective suckling
  • Oversupply of milk
  • A blocked nipple pore
  • Increased pressure on the ducts from clothing, fingers, or sleeping upside down
  • Inflammation can also occur in response to infection when bacteria enters the ducts via the baby’s mouth during breastfeeding.


Infected breast tissue can also progress into an abscess if not treated efficiently on time.

Risk Factors

  • Lactating mothers have a higher incidence of developing Mastitis
  • Mothers who do not breastfeed
  • Early or abrupt weaning
  • Cracked or sore nipples
  • Tight fitted bra
  • In-frequent breastfeeding
  • Diabetes
  • Immunocompromised state


Mastitis is easily diagnosed by examination. Your doctor might look for swelling, itching, tenderness, and redness. A sample of milk will also be required for the identification of causative bacteria if the infection does not respond well to the treatment. In non-lactating women, a breast biopsy or mammogram can also be done to rule out breast carcinoma that produces symptoms of Mastitis.


  • For inflammation: Anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed.
  • For infection: Antibiotics are given for the bacterial infection.
  • Surgical procedure: In case of an abscess or blister a small incision can be made for drainage and quick healing.

Home Remedies

  • Increase fluid intake.
  • Empty the breasts frequently to avoid milk stasis in the affected breast.
  • Use heat and massage before breastfeeding.
  • Maintain your posture and nurse in a good position.
  • Avoid any sort of tight clothing.
  • Use cold compresses to ease the burning and pain in between nursing episodes.
  • If there is mucus, pus, or blood present in milk, use the breast pumps to empty out the affected breast.
  • Do not stop breastfeeding.

When to consult a doctor?

If there are persistent fever, blood, mucus, or pus and a tender lump in the breast which does not go away even after taking antibiotics, you should book an appointment with your doctor.


Is Mastitis only present in lactating women?

No, Mastitis can also develop in non-lactating women as a result of a cracked nipple, infected piercing, or weak immunity.

Is fever an essential symptom of Mastitis?

Patient with Mastitis does not necessarily always present with fever. However, most often they develop a fever as the infection sets in.

Should I stop breastfeeding if I have Mastitis?

As long as the milk does not contain mucus, blood, or pus you should not stop breastfeeding. But if the milk has any of these you should use a breast pump or your hands to empty out the affected breast as frequently as possible.

What is the most common cause of Mastitis?

Mastitis mostly occurs due to engorgement and clogging of milk ducts which leads to accumulation and stasis of milk in the gland, allowing more bacteria to grow and cause infection.