What Causes Mastitis?

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  • Written By: Shannon Kietzman
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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Mastitis is a medical condition characterized by an inflammation of the breast. It can occur in women who are lactating, as well as in women who are not lactating, and even in men.

In lactating women, mastitis is generally caused when the milk ducts become blocked. This can cause the woman’s nipples and other parts of her breast to become painful. She may also experience symptoms that are similar to the flu, such as the chills and a feeling of fatigue, and may develop a fever. The breast may also be warm to the touch and turn red in color.

Mastitis in lactating women can be treated with plenty of rest, which helps the immune system function better. Alternating warm and cold compresses on the affected breast can also help alleviate the pain and symptoms of mastitis, as the cold compresses help with the pain and the warm compresses improve circulation. Applying warm water to the breast, such as by taking a warm shower or bath, is more effective then applying dry heat with a heating pad.

Massaging the breast can also help improve circulation and loosen up the plugged ducts in the breast. Combining massage with a warm bath is often a successful method for treating mastitis. Drinking lots of fluids and maintaining proper nutrition can also be beneficial.


Many breastfeeding women mistakenly stop breastfeeding when they develop mastitis. This only encourages mastitis to progress. Rather, the milk should be kept flowing to prevent the breast from becoming sore and inflamed. If the effected breast hurts too much to breast-feed, the mother should feed from the other side first in order to get the ducts flowing.

Mastitis can also be caused by a variety of diseases, illnesses, and lifestyle choices. Cigarette smoking and nipple piercings, for example, can lead to mastitis. Diabetes and thyroid problems can also cause mastitis. In these cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve the problem. This is particularly true if the condition is chronic and does not respond to treatment, such as the use of antibiotics or other treatments used for mastitis caused by lactation.

In rare cases, mastitis can be caused by inflammatory breast cancer. This form of breast cancer is very aggressive and, therefore, has the highest mortality rate of all forms of breast cancer. Individuals experiencing mastitis for more than two weeks should see a doctor in order to rule out the possibility of inflammatory breast cancer.


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Post 4

Does the nipple close up eventually after someone has mastitis?

Post 3

What could it mean if you start showing some mastitis symptoms while you're not breastfeeding? My breasts have been really sore and swollen lately, and I've had a little bit of a fever, but I haven't even had a kid, so I am definitely not breastfeeding!

I also took a pregnancy test just in case, and it came back negative, so I know that I'm not just showing the early signs of pregnancy.

Do you have any idea what could be causing this, because I'm starting to get a little worried about it, frankly! Does anybody have any insight or advice?

Post 2

Did you know that all mammals can get mastitis, not just humans? I lived on a goat farm when I was little, and sometimes the nanny goats would get the worst mastitis. We milked them every day and used that as our drinking milk, so you can understand how we'd figure out pretty quickly which ones were OK and which ones were a little plugged up.

It was usually better when we had babies on the farm, but still, there was always one or two every season that would get a clinical mastitis infection, and we'd have to go out and give it the antibiotics. And if you've never had to give a goat medicine, well, all I can say is, lucky you. Medicating a goat isn't easy under any circumstances, and its even worse when they're all cranky from the mastitis!

Post 1

Oh, I used to get the worst mastitis during breastfeeding! And I got it every time too, not just the first time -- apparently something about the construction of my breasts or mammary glands means that I'm pretty much guaranteed to get it every time I breastfeed.

It got to become a running joke between my doctor an I -- she would just go ahead and prescribe me the mastitis antibiotics as soon as I gave birth, that's how certain it was that I would have a mastitis infection -- and that was though five children!

One time I even got staph aureus mastitis, just to mix it up a little. That was definitely an experience, I can tell you. But

I am still glad that I kept breastfeeding my children all the way through. It really is such a bonding moment. Did any of you all have the same kind of experience as I did, or were you one of the lucky ones?

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