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Breast Yeast Infection: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatments And Prevention

Breast yeast infection is a common condition in breastfeeding women identified by sore, burning, itching and painful nipples. A study says that in recent years, the percentage of breastfeeding discontinuation has increased due to nipple pain, with yeast infection being the cause in around 18 per cent of the total cases. [1]

This yeast infection or candidiasis is caused by yeast or fungus called Candida. Usually, Candida yeasts live naturally on the surface of our body and help with breaking down the dead cells. Their healthy levels in the body help with boosting the immune, digestive and reproductive system. However, when their count grows in number due to certain factors, they start showing symptoms.

Candida breast yeast infection is among the most underdiagnosed and undertreated postpartum condition. This is because even if women suffer from pain during breastfeeding, they are believed to continue feeding their child at any circumstances (except for the condition in which the breast milk supply is low).

In this article, we will discuss details on breast yeast infection. Take a look.

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Causes Of Breast Yeast Infection

Several factors are responsible for breast yeast infection. Candida mainly thrives in a moist and warm environment and can cause infection in any body parts such as vagina, underarms and between the thighs.

During pregnancy or breastfeeding, wearing poorly fitted bras or shorts can cause friction against the area around the nipples or trap of sweat which can lead to an imbalance in the yeast microbiota and lead to the development of breast yeast infection. Wearing sweat-blocking clothes of material such as nylon and polyester can also be the cause of the infection.

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Symptoms Of Breast Yeast Infection

As aforementioned, common symptoms of a breast yeast infection may include:

  • Breast pain
  • Itching on the breast
  • Soreness or inflammation on the breast
  • Burning sensation on the breast
  • Small and painful bumps or patches
  • Pus-filled blisters

Breats yeast infection is often confused with the symptoms of other skin conditions such as intertrigo, eczema, ringworm or dermatitis.

Risk Factors Of Breast Yeast Infection

Factors that may increase the risk of breast yeast infection are:

  • Weaken immune system
  • Obesity
  • Having skin folds
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Oral contraceptive
  • Excessive sweating
  • Climatic conditions such as humidity and heat

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Treatments Of Breast Yeast Infection

Apart from maintaining personal hygiene, breast yeast infection is treated by:

1. Antifungal medications such as nystatin, clotrimazole and miconazole which can gently be massaged on the nipples after every breastfeeding session.

2. Strong antifungal medications such as fluconazole for severe cases [2]

3. Medications to reduce inflammation on the breast.

4. OTC antifungal creams, gels or ointments.

Note: If the symptoms do not improve even after the aforementioned treatment methods or recure after a certain period, it is better to consult a medical expert to investigate the skin condition further.

How To Prevent Breast Yeast Infection

  • Wear bras, undergarments or clothes made of breathable fabrics like cotton as they help absorb the sweat and do not hold them.
  • Washing the bras and bedding in hot water. You can also add a cup of distilled vinegar.
  • Make ways to prevent friction between the clothes and the skin near the breast as they are very sensitive.
  • Dry the body properly after a shower.
  • Wash and dry clothes properly before wearing them.
  • Don't forget to shower after workout or swimming.
  • Include more probiotics in the diet
  • Eat a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit the content of carbs and processed foods
  • Go for timely checkups as conditions such as diabetes can be the cause of recurring yeast infection.
  • Boiling rubber nipples and keeping the bottles, pacifiers and breast pumps clean.

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Common FAQs

1. Will breast thrush go away by itself?

Though breast thrush is a common condition, its symptoms can cause uneasiness and decrease the quality of life. If the symptoms are not severe for you and your baby, no treatment is required and it may go on its own within a few days. However, if your baby develops oral thrush due to the infection, it is better to consult a medical expert and get the necessary treatment.

2. How long does a breast yeast infection last?

Mild symptoms may go on its own within a few days but moderate to severe infections may take a week or two. It can be treated by antifungal or OTC medications.

3. Can pumping breasts damage their tissues?

Pumping allows mothers to maintain breast milk supply for later use. It also provides a way to donate milk to those mothers who cannot breastfeed due to some conditions such as low breast milk supply. Excess pumping of the breast can cause damage to its tissues and increase the risk of inflammation, soreness and pain.

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