what is mastitis?-What breastfeeding mothers need to know

Mastitis is the inflammation of breast tissue in one or both of the mammary glands. Mastitis usually affects breastfeeding women. For this reason, mastitis is also known as lactation mastitis. Mastitis usually occurs within the first three months after giving birth. It is rare in women who are not breastfeeding.
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Types of mastitis
There are two types of mastitis: infectious mastitis and non-infectious mastitis.
Non-infectious mastitis
Non-infectious mastitis is caused by milk stasis i.e breast milk that stays within the breast tissue. This milk stays in the breast tissue because one of the milk ducts is blocked or because there is a breastfeeding problem. If it is not treated, the milk that remains in the breast tissue can become infected causing infectious mastitis.
Infectious mastitis
Infectious mastitis is usually caused by bacterial infection. If it is not treated immediately, it can lead to breast abscess.
What causes mastitis?
Causes of non-infectious mastitis
Non-infectious mastitis is usually caused by milk stasis. This milk stasis occurs because breast milk that is being produced does not come out during breast feeding. Milk stasis is caused by the following:
·       The baby is not being breastfed frequently
·       The baby had difficulties when trying to suck breast milk
·       The baby is not attached to the breast properly by the mother during breastfeeding.
·       The milk ducts of the mother are blocked because of external pressure applied on the breast for example tight bras and clothes.
Causes of infectious mastitis
Infectious mastitis is caused by bacteria. Bacteria does not grow in fresh breast milk. It can only invade the breast tissues when there is milk stasis. The bacteria can also get into the breast tissue through the cracks on the mother’s breast tissue.
 Women who are not breastfeeding may also develop mastitis. This it not common. But it is caused by bacteria invasion. It is believed that women with a low immune system may be susceptible to bacterial infection.
Women who want to undergo breast piercing should do it with a professional because it can lead to bacterial infection if not done by a professional.
Signs and Symptoms
A symptom is anything that a patient feels and can report, while a sign is something that is visible by a health care worker.
Below are the signs and symptoms for mastitis.
·       Red swollen area of the breast
·       Nipple discharge which may contain little streaks of blood
·       Lumps found in the breast
·       Pain is felt when the breast it touched
·       Sometimes, there is a burning sensation in the breast.
·       The affected area or breast is warm or hot when touched
·       Headache and pains
·       Fever
·       Shivering
·       Depression
·       tiredness
Method of evaluation and diagnosis
Usually, evaluation is done when a woman presents with the signs of mastitis. Evaluation of the woman’s breast has to take place in a private setting, maybe in the examination room.
Mastitis can be diagnosed by a doctor or a nurse. The doctor or nurse will usually ask the patient about the symptoms she is feeling and pair it to any sign he sees in order to confirm a suspected case of mastitis. In cases where the symptoms are very severe and the woman is not responding to treatment, the doctor/nurse may take a breast milk specimen and send to the laboratory for analysis in order to determine the specific bacterial infection.
If the health care team suspect that the problem is resulting from poor breast feeding habits, the health care team may ask the mother to demonstrate how she breast feeds her child at home and her hygiene and sanitation during breast feeding will be questioned and evaluated in order to be able to come up with the solution to address the infection.
If non-infectious mastitis is not addressed, it may become infected and cause infectious mastitis. Similarly, if infectious mastitis is not treated, it may lead to breast abscess and the accumulation of pus in the breast.
There is the complication of recurrence of mastitis after the first case. This may occur because the first case was not properly treated.
G) Treatment of mastitis 
·       Antibiotics: the doctor or nurse in charge will prescribe antibiotics.
·       Pain killers: pain killers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen will help in relieving the pain caused by mastitis.
·       Adjusting breastfeeding techniques and breast hygiene: if the breast abscess was caused by poor breastfeeding techniques, the mother has to learn how to position the baby properly. The mother should also ensure that she empties her breast completely and clean the breast properly.
·       Fluid and fruit intake should be increased. The mother should also get enough bed rest.
·       Surgery: surgery may be performed to remove the duct that is infected. It is usually done under general anaesthesia.
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