Mastitis is characterized by the inflammation of the tissues in one or both the mammary glands in the breast. It is usually seen to affect lactating women and is also often called as lactation mastitis. The woman suffering from the condition feels a hard spot and soreness in the breast. It can result from a blocked milk duct or an infection. According to the studies on this condition, almost 10% of the breastfeeding mothers suffer from this condition. Mastitis is usually seen to appear in the first three months of breastfeeding, but it can also occur two years after giving birth. There are also cases where mastitis appears to occur without lactation.
Mothers usually have the tendency of weaning away the baby when they develop mastitis. However, in most of the cases, breastfeeding can be continued even during mastitis. The condition can be divided into two groups:
• Non-infectious mastitis is caused due to blocked milk ducts or a problem faced during breastfeeding.
• Infectious mastitis results from a bacterial infection. In this condition, it is important to get immediate treatment to avoid formation of abscess.
The non-infectious mastitis is caused due to blocked milk ducts. In this condition, milk is produced but remains in the breast rather than coming out during the process of breastfeeding. Milk stasis can occur because of the following reasons:
• The baby is not getting attached to the breast properly during breastfeeding.
• The baby is facing difficulty in suckling milk.
• Breastfeeding the baby is infrequent.
• The milk ducts are blocked because of pressure of tight clothes.
Any reason that stops the flow of milk properly can result in milk duct block. This results in inflammation of the breast tissue because of the cytokines, proteins available in the breast milk. The immune system of the body mistakes these cytokines for bacteria and triggers the defense mechanism of the body. This causes an inflammation in the breast tissue so that the mistaken infection can be stopped from spreading.
In case of infectious mastitis in lactating women, the infection develops as a result of stagnation of milk in the ducts. When the milk stagnates in the ducts, there are chances of an infection to get developed. It is also believed that the bacteria present on the skin of the breast enter through the cracks in the nipple, and also bacteria that are present in the mouth of the baby can also enter the beats while feeding.
Infectious mastitis in women who are not lactating is very rare. It has been observed that women who develop such kind of condition are usually regular smokers in the age group of late 20’s to early 30’s. It is possible that smoking can damage the milk ducts and make them more susceptible to the infection. Also, women who get their nipple pierced by a non-professional person have chances of developing mastitis.
No matter what the reason is, it is better to consult your physician, who can guide you on further precautionary steps and also provide you the right medication.