Fungal infections are problematic all around the body. Many women don’t realize but they can affect the breast tissue. They can lead to sore, tender, and inflamed breasts.
The good news is the infections are uncommon. The reason the infections are often unknown is because they don’t occur frequently enough. However, that doesn’t mean you can just ignore all the signs, symptoms, and causes of breast fungal infections.
Here’s a look at everything you need to know. We’ll look into the causes, the symptoms, and the treatment for the infections. It’s best to be armed with the knowledge, especially if your doctor has mentioned he believes you may have one.
Why Breast Fungal Infections Occur
Fungi like to have moist, damp areas to grow. This is partly the reason for breast infections to be rare. The area isn’t the most dangerous environment. You’re more likely to find fungal infections around the vagina, in the mouth, and around the feet. These areas build up moisture and offer the perfect breeding ground. But there are times that the breast tissue is perfect.
The majority of fungal infections are caused by a yeast known as Candida. It’s the exact same yeast that causes thrush infections and diaper rashes! They are common in those with poor or weakened immune systems and in those who have to take antibiotics for infections. The problem with them is that they are easily transferred between people. Partners with a thrush infection are likely to pass it between them unless they seek treatment.
Another common fungal infection in the breast is known as tinea. This is a form of ringworm and is a microscopic fungus. Those who suffer from athlete’s foot will likely have this fungus. It’s actually a parasite that feeds on some of the dead protein called keratin, which makes up your nails, hair, and skin. This makes them more likely to affect your breast tissue than Candida.
Ringworm is contagious and you can spread it around your body accidentally. The parasites live on towels. If you do have athlete’s foot or another similar condition, you will need to use a separate towel for that area and wash immediately afterwards. You can also get it from animals!
A number of rashes or conditions around the breast can initially look like fungal infections. However, you may have hives, mastitis, and even eczema around the area. Most rashes will go away on their own after a few days. Your doctor will also be able to tell from the look of most rashes to let you know how serious they are.
Will You Get a Fungal Infection?
Now that you know breast fungal infections are possible, you’ll want to know if there are chances of you getting one. There are some women more likely to suffer than others.
While the breasts are the most moist parts of the body, there is a chance that you can create the perfect breeding ground. If you wear tight bras or sweat a lot, you can create an environment that is warm and wet. It doesn’t take long for the fungi to grow, often around the bottom of your breasts first. Women who have larger breasts are also more likely to get these types of infections, since there are often more folds in the skin tissue.
Make sure your bras fit properly. Ill-fitting bras aren’t just bad for your back and breasts, but can lead to chaffing and tears within the skin. The fungi will grow within these breaks and then infect the rest of the area.
If you have an infection somewhere else on your body, you are more likely to develop it within the breasts. Some skin conditions can also lead to folds within the area, increasing the risk of developing it. Look out for rashes if you have atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, or contact dermatitis.
Symptoms of a Breast Fungus Infection
The exact symptoms will depend on the type of infection you have. One thing that is the same is that the infection will be itchy. It can be extremely uncomfortable, with the itching initially seemingly soothing the problem but them making it worse.
There is a rash with both types of infections, but the layout of the rash will be different. While Candida can cause a spread, ringworm will usually look like rings around the area and worm-like (hence the name). The skin can be red, inflamed, and start peeling or shedding. You can also see a discharge, often clear, if the infection continues to grow. Some women also experience a musty odor underneath the breast.
You won’t always see the symptoms at first. Most of them are underneath the breasts, where you’re less likely to look. You can get the rash within the inframammary folds, leaving them to hide until you experience strong itchiness or a strong odor. Many women can only realize there’s a problem when they find some skin discoloration. They then realize that this infection has been there for a long time.
Rashes on the breasts can disappear on their own. Most problems will go away within a couple of days, especially if related to the heat or chaffing. If your rash hasn’t gone within a week or it has a ring pattern, you will need to speak to your doctor for help. If left, it can develop into a bacterial infection and you can be left with permanent discoloration around the area.
In some serious cases, your breast infection can lead to shooting pains. They will be temporary, but are a sign that the infection may be deeper in the tissue. If you are breastfeeding, you may experience more pain around the nipple after more feeds. Oral thrush infections in babies are common and they can pass the infection to the breast during feeding accidentally.
How to Treat Fungal Infections in the Breast
Like other fungal infections on the skin and body, breast fungal infections can be treated with the use of anti-fungal creams. You may get an ointment or an oral treatment, depending on the severity and exactly where the fungus has past to. If you get it in your mouth, you will need oral infections.
Doctors can also prescribe corticosteroid or steroid creams with the anti-fungal treatments. These are common if you have severe inflammation or itching. The creams are a way to help calm the symptoms, while the anti-fungal remedies get rid of the cause of the symptoms. Symptom treatments are temporary and your doctor will want to keep an eye on your condition to see if you still need them.
You can also use some home remedies. Doctors recommend some moisturising agents, like coconut oil. They tend to have anti-fungal properties but help to add the moisture back into the skin. These treatments can help to soothe the dryness and peeling of the skin, reducing the risk of permanent scarring or discoloration.
Seeking treatment for your condition early is best. This will help to lower the use of treatments continuously and will also help to avoid severe and long-term reminders that you had a breast fungal infection.
Herbal Remedies for Breast Infections
If you don’t want to seek pharmaceutical treatments for your condition, you will need to seek some herbal remedies. There are two that have proven successful in a number of patients. However, you will need to watch for the infection spreading and speak to your doctor if they show no signs of working after a few days.
Tea tree oil is one of the best options and is even recommended by the Mayo Clinic. The oil doesn’t just help to soothe symptoms, but actively fights against the yeast infection and kills it. You can use the oil directly on the skin but you will need to dilute it in some coconut or almond oil first. Get a cotton ball and just dab the oil mixture onto the infected part of your skin a few times a day.
You may be sensitive to tea tree oil. This can also be drying, although the carrier oil is usually good to counter this. You’ll want to apply to a small part on your wrist before applying to the infected area.
If you are too sensitive to tea tree oil, opt for garlic instead. This is another natural ingredient with anti-fungal properties and is used in numerous herbal treatments to boost the immune system and kill infections. In some cases, it can be better than prescription medications!
There are a few ways to use garlic on your body to remove the fungus. Start by rubbing the raw garlic over the area. This is good if you have just a small infection on part of your skin. If your infection is larger or deeper, you can blend garlic down into a puree and use a cotton ball to dab onto the area. This can cause a burning sensation, especially if you put on peeled or cracked skin.
If your skin does burn, you’ll need to add a little oil with the garlic. This is the third and highly effective way to treating your condition naturally. You just need half a cup of coconut or olive oil. Soak your garlic cloves in the olive oil overnight and then use the infused mixture with a cotton ball the next morning.
It’s possible to use all the garlic options three or four times a day. Keep using them until your infection disappears completely. Just the slightest bit of the infection still will make your infection return.
Both of these herbal remedies will help both types of fungal infections. They can also be used with anti-fungal creams if you’d like.
Prevention Is the Best Option
Of course, preventing breast fungal infections from occurring is the best option of the lot. The great news is that with some simple day-to-day actions you can see the infections have no breeding ground to take effect. While you may not be able to limit the fungi coming close to your breast, you can help to reduce their chances of infecting the tissue or skin.
Start by making sure you dry your body thoroughly after a shower or bath. The moisture is what’s needed, especially in a warm part of the body. If you get dressed, especially with a bra, when your skin is still damp, you make it much more likely that the fungi will multiple and grow.
Remember that the fungus will live on towels and clothes. If you sweat a lot or live in a humid/hot country, you will need to change your bra frequently. This includes sports bras that you may wear. Before you change your clothes, wipe your breasts to make sure they are dry. This will prevent the moisture from getting into your new clothes right away.
You’ll also want to avoid sharing towels with other people. If you have a fungal infection elsewhere, make sure you don’t use the same towel for the different parts of the body. This just encourages the spreading of your infection. Wash your towels and any clothing that has come in touch with the infected areas with warm soapy water and air dry as much as possible to get rid of the yeast before use again.
Unscented powders can help to keep your breast area dry. Avoid any deodorants or sprays around this area. The skin is already sensitive and you could cause a reaction. The slightest bit of chaffing or rash could give the fungal infection a ground to grow from.
Think about the types of bras that you use. Make sure they fit well and offer you the support you need. Your breast touching your skin can create pockets of moisture for the yeast or ringworm to grow in. This is common in those who are overweight or have larger breasts. You don’t need to wear underwire bras if you don’t want, but make sure whatever you do wear keeps the skin from connecting.
If you are breastfeeding, you’ll need to make sure your baby doesn’t suffer from oral thrush infections. They are common and your doctor may recommend that you express and bottle feed until the infection has cleared up, as it can easily spread.
However, even without baby thrush, you can developed Candida and other fungal infections around the breast. These are common if you don’t change your breast pads frequently. Breast milk and sweat will gather in the pads and create a warm, moist area around the nipples for the yeast to grow. If you have cracked nipples, you can find yourself more at risk. Make sure you use creams to keep your nipples soft throughout breastfeeding. Not only will you avoid infections, but you’ll also find your skin is softer and less irritable.