Three Principle Causes of a Burning Sensation in the Breast
A burning sensation in the breast can be due to a number of things. In most instances this burning sensation tends to occur in women who are breastfeeding. The breast contains an extensive system of glandular and fatty tissues, blood vessels, nerves, and lymph nodes. Irritation, infection, or inflammation to any of the above can result in soreness, pain, or a burning sensation in the breast.
Damage Around the Nipple Can Lead to Mastitis
Sometimes when breastfeeding, an infant can cause damage in the area of the nipple, most notably in the skin that surrounds the nipple. If an entryway for bacteria is created, an infection can occur. The infection can cause redness, swelling, a feeling of warmth in the breast, and at times a burning sensation. When such an infection occurs, it is known as mastitis.
Mastitis can occur in women who are not breastfeeding, although such instances are not all that common. When it occurs in women who are breastfeeding, which is most often the case, it is referred to as lactation mastitis. Although this condition is normally easily treated with antibiotics, if allowed to linger it can be somewhat exhausting for the woman, even to the point where it could leave her in a run-down condition. The burning sensation can be very uncomfortable for the mother, and it may cause her to want to stop breastfeeding the infant early. It presents no danger to the infant however.
A sore red area often appears on the breast. The presence of this red area may be preceded by a feeling of flu-like symptoms. Should these symptoms occur, it’s best to see a doctor. The doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics, and if so, the condition should go away. If the symptoms remain, the condition could be something other than mastitis. Mastitis can also result from a blocked milk duct, as milk backing up into the breast can lead to a breast infection. Women who have experienced mastitis, and the corresponding burning sensation in the breast before, are at a fairly high risk of doing so again. Mastitis should never be ignored. In some instances it may go away on its own, but if not, an abscess could form within the breast, and would have to be surgically drained.
Another Cause – Peripheral Nerve Damage in the Breast
Another cause of a burning sensation could be neuropathy. Neuropathy is the name given to peripheral nerve damage. When the nerve damage is in the breast, a woman can sometimes feel numbness or tingling in the breast, in addition to the burning sensation. There are a number of things that can contribute to this type of nerve damage, including medications, chemotherapy, and diabetes. Once the nerve damage has taken place, it may or may not be reversible. It is usually controllable, and can often be stopped, if not necessarily cured. Analgesic medications can be given to manage any pain or burning sensations.
Rare, But Potentially Deadly – Inflammatory Breast Cancer
One other cause of this burning sensation is not one to be taken lightly. It is called inflammatory breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is fortunately a somewhat rare form of breast cancer. It accounts for one to five percent of all breast cancer cases. The pain and other sensations are the result of the cancer obstructing the lymph vessels, causing a buildup of fluids in the breast. This tends to be a rapidly progressing form of cancer. For that reason, it’s important to see a doctor early on if a suspected case of mastitis lingers on, or if it does not respond to antibiotics. The symptoms of this type of breast cancer quite often make their presence known within a few short weeks.
This type of breast cancer generally occurs in women in their 50s, as opposed to most other types of breast cancers that tend to most often affect women in their 60s. Those ages are median ages however. This cancer is slightly more common in African American women, and also more common in women who are significantly overweight. It can occur in men as well. It is a difficult cancer to diagnose, and it is often in an advanced stage when first detected. For that reason, inflammatory breast cancer is almost always treated very aggressively. The cancer is treated in a number of ways ranging from targeted medication, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and surgery, in which the entire breast and surrounding tissue is often removed.
The good news in all of this is that a burning sensation in the breast is almost always going to be the result of an infection. It will almost always be easily treated with the help of antibiotics, and if the condition is that of mastitis, it does not present a danger to the infant. It always makes sense to bring the condition of a burning sensation in the breast to the attention of a doctor early on, and it is strongly advised to see the doctor again, and soon, if a medication that has been prescribed does not seem to be effective.
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