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Premenstrual Breast Swelling And Tenderness: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

| Reviewed By Dr. Arya Krishnan

Menstruation is one of the most uncomfortable times in a woman's life - no doubt about it. The associated pain, diarrhoea, fits of migraine and with many more to the list, pointing out the most bothersome of it all can be quite challenging. However, the topic we are going to be discussing today is one that most women suffer from. We are going to talk about the one that comes hinting that your days of white trousers are over - yes, we will be talking about breast tenderness before periods.

One of the most common and easily, the annoying PMS symptoms, breast tenderness and swelling begin around two weeks before your period. It causes discomfort and unease and is medically termed as cyclical mastalgia [1] .

A part of the group of symptoms called premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, premenstrual tenderness and swelling can also be a sign of fibrocystic breast disease - a condition that causes painful, lumpy breasts before the menstrual period [2] .

The cyclic breast pain is linked to the monthly rise and fall in the oestrogen and progesterone levels - which is why you experience the pain at times only. In almost all cases, the swelling and tenderness is never a cause for anything serious as it usually subsides on its own once menstruation begins [1] .

But if the condition persists even after your menstrual period, consult a doctor immediately.

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Causes Of Premenstrual Breast Swelling And Tenderness

On exploring the reason behind the condition, it can be asserted that there are several possible causes [3] and they are mentioned below.

  • Hormonal fluctuations: A change in your hormone levels during your monthly cycle may be a possible reason for your breast swelling and tenderness. With the oestrogen and progesterone levels rising up and down during the month, studies point it out as being a cause.
  • Fibrocystic breast disease: The hormone fluctuations during this period can stimulate the breasts, causing enlargement of the milk glands and ducts - which can lead to the development of benign lumps or breast cysts [4] .
  • Excessive caffeine: According to a study, excessive consumption of caffeine is one of the major causes of the swelling and the tenderness.
  • Medication: The use of certain medications, such as oral birth control pills as well as infertility medications can stimulate the swelling or soreness in the breast tissue [5] .

Apart from these, certain lifestyle and habits have been asserted to be the causes, such as a high-fat diet could be the cause of a worsen the condition. Chronic stress is linked as a possible cause.

Symptoms Of Premenstrual Breast Swelling And Tenderness

The signs begin to develop around two weeks before menstruation and fade away at the start of your period. The most common signs of the condition are as follows [6] :

  • Soreness and dull pain in the upper and outer area of both breasts
  • Pain that affects both breasts, and may often also spread to the armpits
  • A feeling of heavier or swollen breasts before period

Treatment For Premenstrual Breast Swelling And Tenderness

The condition can be treated effectively with over-the-counter medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which also help relieve cramping associated with PMS.

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Hormonal birth control, including oral contraceptive pills, can also reduce swelling and pain [7] .

If the pain is severe and prolongs even after your period, consult a doctor. Consequently, if you have the following symptoms, consult a doctor immediately [8] .

  • Breast pain that interferes with your ability to sleep or perform daily tasks
  • Lumps that occur only in one breast or any lumps
  • Discharge from the nipple, especially if the discharge is brown or bloody

Prevention Of Premenstrual Breast Swelling And Tenderness

Although the condition subsides on its own at the start of the period, there are a number of ways in which you can reduce or manage the swelling and tenderness and they are as follows [9] [10] :

  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine intake
  • Follow a low-fat diet
  • Wear a firm, supportive bra
  • Do gentle exercises like simple breathing exercises, massage, aromatherapy and deep breathing
  • If using any, change your birth control method
View Article References
  1. [1] Goodwin, P. J., Miller, A., Del Giudice, M. E., & Ritchie, K. (1997). Breast health and associated premenstrual symptoms in women with severe cyclic mastopathy. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 176(5), 998-1005.
  2. [2] Goodwin, P. J., DeBoer, G., Clark, R. M., Catton, P., Redwood, S., Hood, N., & Boyd, N. F. (1995). Cyclical mastopathy and premenopausal breast cancer risk. Breast cancer research and treatment, 33(1), 63-73.
  3. [3] Meyrick, R. L., & Smith, I. (1972). Benign breast swelling. British medical journal, 2(5813), 585.
  4. [4] Balleyguier, C., Arfi-Rouche, J., Haddag, L., Canale, S., Delaloge, S., & Dromain, C. (2015). Breast pain and imaging. Diagnostic and interventional imaging, 96(10), 1009-1016.
  5. [5] Penn, I. W., Chang, Y. C., Chuang, E., Chen, C. M., Chung, C. F., Kuo, C. Y., & Chuang, T. Y. (2019). Risk factors and prediction model for persistent breast-cancer-related lymphedema: a 5-year cohort study. Supportive Care in Cancer, 27(3), 991-1000.
  6. [6] Hwang, S. B., Choi, B. S., Byun, G. Y., Koo, B. H., & Lee, S. R. (2017). Accessory axillary breast excision with liposuction using minimal incision: a preliminary report. Aesthetic plastic surgery, 41(1), 10-18.
  7. [7] Fosnot, J., Fischer, J. P., Wu, L. C., & Serletti, J. M. (2015). The patient’s perspective on the effect of autologous breast reconstruction on lymphedema. Annals of plastic surgery, 75(2), 149-152.
  8. [8] de Oliveira, M. M. F., Sarian, L. O., Gurgel, M. S. C., Almeida Filho, J. G., Ramos, C. D., de Rezende, L. F., & Amorim, B. J. (2016). Lymphatic function in the early postoperative period of breast cancer has no short-term clinical impact. Lymphatic research and biology, 14(4), 220-225.
  9. [9] Arora, B. K., Arora, R., & Aora, A. (2016). Axillary accessory breast: presentation and treatment. International Surgery Journal, 3(4), 2050-2053.
  10. [10] de Oliveira, M. M. F., de Rezende, L. F., do Amaral, M. T. P., Pinto e Silva, M. P., Morais, S. S., & Costa Gurgel, M. S. (2014). Manual lymphatic drainage versus exercise in the early postoperative period for breast cancer. Physiotherapy theory and practice, 30(6), 384-389.
Arya KrishnanGeneral Medicine
Arya Krishnan
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