One of the most common causes for swelling breasts, or mastitis, is infection. Other causes of swelling breasts may be hormonal changes. Women who are of menstruating age may notice some tenderness or swollen breasts during their monthly cycles. A breast abscess may also cause swelling breasts.
When an individual develops a breast infection, it may be caused by a bacteria known as staphylococcus, which commonly produces a skin infection called a staph infection. If present on the skin's surface, this bacteria may enter through an open wound or cut on the breast. Occasionally, small lumps or welts may appear as well.
Pressure on the breast tissue can also cause mastitis. This may be caused by wearing restrictive clothing, such as an extremely tight sweater or a poor- fitting bra. This is not as common, however, as an infection due to breastfeeding.
When a breastfeeding woman does not adequately empty the fluid or milk from her breasts after nursing, a blockage of the milk ducts may occur. This may lead to infection. This may also be caused by improper breastfeeding techniques, such as a lag between breast pumping. In some cases, the woman's nipples may become chafed, leading to tiny cracks through which bacteria enter.
Other causes of swelling breasts are hormonal changes. This may occur at various stages throughout a woman's life. Beginning at adolescence, girls may notice enlarged breasts, along with tenderness and breast ache. Menstruation may cause swelling breasts in some women, along with fluid retention. Many women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms may notice swelling breasts at various intervals.
A benign cyst may produce symptoms such as inflammation, pain, and swelling breasts. Any discharge or drainage from the breasts should be examined by a physician. If infection is present, the doctor may prescribe a course of oral antibiotics and possibly a topical cream.
Cancer is a more serious cause of swelling breasts. Breast cancer, which manifests as a lump or mass of tissue on the breast, can typically be diagnosed with a mammogram. Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form that may produce significant redness, inflammation, and pain. Other forms of breast cancer may be difficult to detect without a mammogram.
A mammogram is similar to an x-ray. With a mammogram, however, the radiation is typically not as high as with an x-ray. Commonly, a breast mammogram will be evaluated by a radiologist for any abnormalities that could indicate breast cancer.
Some common causes of swollen breasts are typically overlooked. One common cause of swollen or enlarged breasts is pregnancy. Another cause is the use of certain drugs, such as oral contraceptives.