What can cause breast pain
Women of all ages sometimes experience breast pain. This can be worrying if they have never experienced it before and can cause worry and anxiety about the cause. There are many different possible causes, and different treatments to alleviate them.
Breast pain is commonly caused by hormone changes in the body. If the pain comes and goes in cycles this is often the cause. Some degree of discomfort is common before a period, but the degree varies a lot between women. The rising level of hormones at puberty can also cause pain. This happens in some boys as well as in girls. The hormone changes at the beginning of pregnancy will also cause a degree of breast tenderness. Breast pain will often become more severe as menopause approaches. This pain goes once menopause has passed, unless HRT is used.
Breast-feeding can be extremely painful. The breasts engorge with milk and the swelling causes pain. In addition if the baby is not latched on properly nipples can be cracked and sore. The let down reflex is itself painful for some women. It is possible to get fungal infections of the nipples during breast-feeding and this can cause pain. If the feeding does not empty certain parts of the breast then mastitis, or infection of the milk glands can occur. This feels like a hard lump in the breast that is hard to the touch and warm. If untreated as well as the pain the mother can be generally unwell, sometimes quite severely.
Breast pain is not a symptom of breast cancer until it is quite well developed. The pain will initially be localized, and will be constant. A lump will be felt in the breast if pain is present. If there is unexplained discharge from or puckering of the nipple see a doctor'
REFERRED PAIN & INJURY
Pain in the breasts can come from other sources. Trapped nerves in the back or rib area can be felt as breast pain. The heart does not have pain nerves of its own and the pain of a heart attack is often felt in other areas, commonly the shoulder but sometimes the breast. A breast that has been injured will be painful, but the cause is usually obvious.
DRUGS & DISEASES
Certain drugs cause breast swelling and may cause pain in both female and male patients. The most common of these are spironolactone and cimetidine. Alcoholics with liver damage often experience breast pain. The rash of shingles can appear on the breasts, causing pain.
The most important thing to do first is get an accurate diagnosis of the cause of the pain. Once this is achieved the different causes of breast pain can be treated accordingly. Simple over the counter painkillers can be used for the pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs are the most effective, but some people cannot use them. In that case use acetaminophen.
If the cause is an infection, either mastitis or thrush, then appropriate treatments should be taken. Safe alternatives are available so that breast-feeding can be continued. The pain of mastitis or engorged breasts is also very effectively relieved by chilled cabbage leaves placed inside the bra, and by the application of hot and cold packs. Guidance on the correct position of the baby for feeding should be sought.
Hormonally caused pain is most often treated by the use of evening primrose oil and vitamin B supplements, taken either continuously or cyclically.
Other causes of breast pain are best treated by a doctor.