Read below about swollen breasts, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your swollen breasts from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Swollen Breasts Symptoms

Breasts come in all shapes and sizes. With all the ongoing concerns over breast issues, like breast cancer, noticeable swelling is sure to raise the alarm. The good news is that swollen breasts are most certainly not always a sign of the worst-case scenario. There are plenty of reasons why your breasts swell.

Changes in the breasts, including swelling, are common. Often, these changes are the result of normal bodily functions and no reason for concern. During certain stages of life, for example, during menstrual periods and pregnancy, breast swelling can often be expected.

Even if you believe the swelling is normal, however, it is important to monitor and document swollen breast symptoms such as the following:

The female breast is made up of tissue which overlays the chest muscles and extends from the collarbone to the breastbone. Their primary function is producing milk for feeding babies. From their initial development during adolescence through the later years in life, breasts can change in size and shape for a variety of reasons.

Swollen Breasts Causes Overview

Swollen breasts may be a natural occurrence caused by natural changes in the female body. A traumatic event may cause bruising but is likely not the cause of the swelling. Of greatest concern is when breast swelling is caused by diseases that can be harmful to not only the breasts but the entire body. Common causes of swollen breasts include:

Environmental causes:

  • Pregnancy: Within weeks of conception, the breasts can begin to change to prepare for breastfeeding. The glands inside the breasts begin milk production causing swelling, tenderness, and lumpiness.
  • Natural Causes: A woman's hormone levels change before/during menstrual periods, when approaching menopause, and after menopause. These changes can lead to swelling from excess fluid, increased amounts of estrogen in the breast ducts, or increased lumps in the breasts.

Medical causes:

  • Infections: Bacteria found on the skin can enter the breast and cause swelling from an infection. Typically, the bacteria enter through a crack in the nipple and infects the fatty tissue.
  • Tumors: Growths, both cancerous and noncancerous, can be found in the breasts and cause swelling. While noticeable lumps are typically the most common symptom associated with breast cancer, swelling may occur prior to a lump is felt.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Swollen Breasts

Updated on Aug. 29, 2018

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced swollen breasts. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Breast Infection (Mastitis)

    Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that results in breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness of the breast. Mastitis most commonly affects women who are breast-feeding (lactation mastitis), although sometimes this condition can occur in women who aren't breast-feeding.

    2-3 weeks with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, breast pain, signs of breast inflammation like redness, swelling or fever, fever
    Symptoms that always occur with breast infection (mastitis):
    breast pain, signs of breast inflammation like redness, swelling or fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Plugged Breast Duct

    If you're making milk faster than it's getting expressed, it can get backed up in the duct. When this happens, the tissue around the duct may become swollen and inflamed and press on the duct, causing a blockage.

    Days

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    breast pain, breast lump, painful breast lump
    Symptoms that never occur with plugged breast duct:
    fever, breast redness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Breast Cyst

    A breast cyst is a fluid-filled sac (like a tiny balloon) inside the breast. Breast cysts are common in women. They might cause a little pain, but they are usually benign (not cancerous).

    Resolves with treatment but can recur

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    breast pain, breast lump, painful breast lump, movable breast lump
    Symptoms that always occur with breast cyst:
    breast lump
    Symptoms that never occur with breast cyst:
    armpit lump, fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Breast Abscess

    A breast infection is an infection in the tissue of the breast. Breast infections are usually caused by a common bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, found on normal skin.

    2-3 weeks with treatment

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, breast pain, signs of breast inflammation like redness, swelling or fever, fever, chills
    Symptoms that always occur with breast abscess:
    breast pain, signs of breast inflammation like redness, swelling or fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Swollen Breasts Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having swollen breasts.

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  5. 5.Fibrocystic Breast Changes

    Fibrocystic change is a generalized term used to describe a variety of benign changes in the breast. Symptoms of this condition are breast swelling or pain, as well as nodules, lumpiness, or nipple discharge.

    Relapsing, lasting years

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    breast lump, hard breast lump, nipple discharge, rope-like breast lump
    Symptoms that always occur with fibrocystic breast changes:
    breast lump
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Premenstrual Syndrome

    Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a very common condition. PMS has a variety of symptoms including cramping, mood swings, food cravings, fatigue, irritability, breast tenderness & depression.

    Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome can last all the way into menopause.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    stomach bloating, anxiety, constipation, depressed mood, breast pain
    Symptoms that never occur with premenstrual syndrome:
    constant sadness, severe sadness, disapearance of periods for over a year
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  7. 7.Non - Specific Breast Pain

    Breast pain is either related to menstruation (cyclic) or not (noncyclic). It is common in pre-menopausal women and can also be a side effect of contraceptives that contain hormones like the pill, anticonceptive injections and intra-uterine devices.

    7 days

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    breast pain, breast swelling, armpit pain
    Symptoms that always occur with non-specific breast pain:
    breast pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Breast Cancer

    Breast cancer affects one in eight women during their lives. It is caused by uncontrolled and fast growth of damaged cells in the breast tissue. These cells can also move to the lymph nodes and sometimes other organs. The main symptom of breast cancer is a hard or firm, non-mobile, usually non-tender lump in the breast that increases in size.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    breast pain, armpit lump, breast mass or retraction, breast lump, nipple discharge
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Possible Pregnancy

    In women of reproductive age, symptoms including missed period, weight gain, and nausea are indicative of pregnancy.

    9 months

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea or vomiting, stomach bloating, bloody vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding
    Symptoms that always occur with possible pregnancy:
    missed period
    Symptoms that never occur with possible pregnancy:
    painful urination, severe abdominal pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Swollen Breasts Treatments and Relief

Swollen breast symptoms should not be readily dismissed as nothing to worry about. There could potentially be a natural cause that is little reason for concern, but more significant issues will require professional diagnosis and treatment. For naturally occurring swelling, at-home remedies may help reduce inflammation and swelling. ### Contacting your doctor is recommended to see if advanced treatments will be required, particularly if the following are experienced: ###

  • High fever while breastfeeding
  • Tender/swollen lymph nodes in the armpit
  • Swelling combined with redness, tenderness, and breasts feeling hot to the touch
  • New or changing lumps in the breasts
  • Discharge from the nipple

While it is a good idea to contact a medical professional for swollen breasts, general swelling associated with pregnancy, breastfeeding, or the menstrual cycle may be relieved with basic steps at home. When the swollen breasts cause is more serious, doctors will determine the best course of action.

At-home treatments:

  • Exercise: Regular, vigorous exercise will help prepare the body for changes and maintain adequate blood flow throughout the body.
  • Clothing: A properly fitting bra, worn both day and night, will help reduce swelling.
  • Maintain a proper diet: Avoiding caffeine and minimizing fat intake limits breast swelling and tenderness.
  • Over-the-counter medications: NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory medications) like ibuprofen are widely accepted forms of medications designed to reduce swelling and pain.

Professional treatments:

  • Prescription Medications: Infections are often treated with prescribed antibiotics.
  • Surgical procedures: Breast cancer may result in the need to remove a part or all of the breast(s).
  • Medications: A wide range of medical treatments is often employed to treat various stages of cancer. These medications include hormone-blocking therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Awareness of potential complications and issues of the breasts has risen over the past several years. Swelling, while not always a cause for concern, is a symptom worthy of monitoring. Regular self-checks of the breasts is highly recommended to help identify potential issues as early as possible.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Swollen Breasts

  • Q.Do you feel pain when you urinate?
  • Q.Are you sexually active?
  • Q.When was your last menstrual period?
  • Q.Do you currently use estrogen as a hormone replacement therapy?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our swollen breasts symptom checker to find out more.

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Swollen Breasts Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced swollen breasts have also experienced:

    • 13% Bloody Vaginal Discharge
    • 9% Vaginal Bleeding
    • 6% Breast Pain
  • People who have experienced swollen breasts had symptoms persist for:

    • 41% Less Than a Week
    • 16% Over a Month
    • 16% One to Two Weeks
  • People who have experienced swollen breasts were most often matched with:

    • 40% Breast Infection (Mastitis)
    • 30% Plugged Breast Duct
    • 30% Breast Cyst
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having swollen breasts

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