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- Treatment Overview
Breast Abscess Treatment Overview
First steps to consider
- If you have symptoms of a breast abscess—a tender mass in the breast, pain, redness, swelling, and warmth—you should see a healthcare provider right away.
- A provider will likely drain the infected fluid and prescribe antibiotics.
- In some cases, you may be able to relieve symptoms with OTC medication and warm, moist compresses.
Go to the ER if you have any of the following symptoms, which are signs of sepsis:
- High heart rate or weak pulse
- Shortness of breath
- Confusion and disorientation
- High fever, shivering, or feeling very cold
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Sweaty or clammy skin
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When to see a healthcare provider
You should always see a healthcare provider if you have symptoms of a breast abscess, which include fever, a tender mass in the breast, and pain, redness, swelling, and warmth.
It’s important to get treated because breast abscesses don’t usually go away on their own. An untreated breast abscess can lead to a life-threatening complication like sepsis (blood poisoning).
Your healthcare provider can usually diagnose a breast abscess based on your symptoms, a physical exam, and an imaging test (ultrasound). The doctor may also take a sample of the fluid in the breast (a procedure called fine needle aspiration) to check for other causes of a breast mass.
What to expect from your doctor visit
- An antibiotic will be prescribed to treat the infection that caused the abscess. Mild infections may be treated with oral antibiotics like dicloxacillin or cephalexin (Keflex). More severe infections may need to be treated with IV antibiotics.
- The most important part of treating a breast abscess is to drain the infected fluid because antibiotics alone are not enough to treat the infection. One way to drain the fluid is to remove it with a needle.
- Breast abscesses may need to be drained surgically if the abscess is placing too much pressure on the overlying skin or it cannot be drained fully with a needle.
- Even if the breast abscess is from breastfeeding, your provider may recommend that you continue breastfeeding, if possible. Breastfeeding can help drain the milk in the breast, which can make the abscess go away faster. An abscess in the breast is not a danger to a nursing infant.
Prescription medications for a breast abscess
- Oral antibiotics: dicloxacillin (Dycill), cephalexin (Keflex), clindamycin (Cleocin HCl), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim)
- IV antibiotics: vancomycin, piperacillin-tazobactam (Zosyn), ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
Types of breast abscess providers
- A primary care provider can diagnose and treat a breast abscess.
- A dermatologist (skin doctor) can treat an abscess.
- An ob/gyn may also treat a breast abscess.
Treating breast abscess at home
Always see a healthcare provider for a breast abscess. Symptoms include fever, a tender mass in the breast, and pain, redness, swelling, and warmth. An abscess usually needs to be drained by a provider and treated with antibiotics. In some cases, you may be able to help relieve symptoms with OTC pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Tips for treating breast abscess
- Never try to puncture the mass and drain the abscess yourself. Bacteria may enter the body and lead to sepsis (blood poisoning).
- Apply a warm, moist compress to the affected breast to encourage drainage and reduce inflammation.
Wellness and prevention
- Moisturize the nipples, which helps prevent cracks in the skin that can allow bacteria to enter the body.
- If breastfeeding, try not to go too long between feedings and having breasts that are very full with milk for a long time.
- Quit smoking. Smokers are believed to be at higher risk of breast abscesses.
- Lose weight if necessary. Obesity is a risk factor for breast abscesses.