Causes of a breast abscess

Most breast abscesses occur as a complication ofmastitis, which is a bacterial infection that causes the breast to become red andinflamed.

Mastitis usually affects breastfeeding women, but itcan also sometimes occur in women who aren't breastfeeding.

Women who smoke have an increased risk of developing non-breastfeeding mastitis otherwise known as periductal mastitis .

Bacterial infection

Most abscesses are caused by bacterial infections. The most common bacteria that causes mastitis is Staphylococcus aureus.

The bacteria usuallyenter the breast through small cracks or breaksin the skin of the nipple, whichcan sometimes develop during breastfeeding.

Infections can also becaused by an overgrowth of bacteria that usually exist quite harmlessly within the milk ducts (the tiny tubes inside the breast that carrymilk). An overgrowth of bacteria can occur if stagnant milk collects in a blocked milk duct.

When bacteria enter your body, your immune system (the bodys natural defence) tries to fight them off by sending white blood cells to the affected area. The white blood cells attack the bacteria, which causes some of the tissue at the site of the infection to die, creating a small, hollow pocket.

The pocketstarts tofill with pus, forming an abscess. The pus contains a mixture of dead tissue, white blood cells and bacteria. As the infection progresses, the abscess may get bigger and more painful asmore pus is produced.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 20 Jun 2016