Conditions & Treatments

Breast Infections and Inflammations

The most common type of breast infection is lactational mastitis, which causes a woman’s nipples to become cracked and sore when she is breastfeeding. Nonlactational mastitis is similar to lactational mastitis but occurs in nonlactating women.

Breast Infections and Inflammations

What is lactational mastitis?

Illustration of breastfeeding, latch-on
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The most common type of breast infection is lactational mastitis, which occurs when a woman is breastfeeding. The nipples become cracked and sore, allowing bacteria from the baby's mouth to enter the ducts and rapidly multiply in the milk. Occasionally, infection also arises from a blocked milk duct. In both cases, the breast becomes hard, reddened, hot, and painful.

Treatment for lactational mastitis

Specific treatment for lactational mastitis will be determined by your health care provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Your health care provider may suggest trying to unblock the duct with warm compresses and massage. He or she may also prescribe antibiotics and an analgesic for pain. In some cases, lactational mastitis progresses and forms an abscess, a more serious condition that may require drainage.

What is nonlactational mastitis?

Nonlactational mastitis is similar to lactational mastitis but occurs in nonlactating women. In some cases, this condition occurs in women who have had lumpectomies followed by radiation therapy, in women with diabetes, or in women whose immune systems are depressed.

While this condition is rare, it is usually accompanied by high fever and headache and treated with antibiotics. Consult your health care provider for a diagnosis and treatment.

What is chronic subareolar abscess?

Chronic subareolar abscess is a breast infection that occurs infrequently. Surgery may be needed to stop this repeating infection. Consult your health care provider for a diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment Programs


Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

Select a treatment program for more information:



Imaging

  • Breast Imaging
    The Breast Imaging Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging provides state-of-the-art exams including breast tomosynthesis, the expertise of specialized breast radiologists, and a network of convenient metro Boston locations.
Obstetrics and Gynecology

  • Obstetrics Program
    The Obstetrics Program at Massachusetts General Hospital provides state-of-the-art, individualized care for women before, during and after childbirth.

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