Breast Yeast Infection: Signs, Causes, Treatment, & Prevention

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Candida is a yeast that commonly resides in our bodies, specifically in the skin, digestive tract, vagina, and oral cavity. While healthy levels of candida may be beneficial, its overgrowth could lead to infections such as breast yeast infections (1).

Yeast infections often occur in warm, moist skin regions such as the underarms, private areas, and skin folds of the breasts and nipples (2). This type of yeast infection affecting the skin is known as cutaneous candidiasis. Fortunately, breast yeast infections can easily be treated and prevented with certain measures.

Read on to understand the causes, symptoms, treatments, and management of breast yeast infection and similar skin conditions.

What Are The Signs Of Yeast Infection Of The Breasts?

The lesions of a yeast infection of the breast have the following characteristics (2) (3).

  • Bright red patches or rashes
  • Pustules around the rash
  • One or more patches of different sizes and shapes
  • Itchiness
  • Stabbing or shooting pain at the rash
  • Radiating burning sensation in one or both the breasts

If you notice any of these symptoms, consult a doctor or a lactation consultant to confirm yeast infection and rule out other problems.

Other Skin Conditions With Similar Clinical Appearance

The following skin conditions may cause symptoms similar to those experienced in a yeast infection.

  • Eczema
  • Skin allergy
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Seborrhea
  • Psoriasis
  • Cellulitis (bacterial skin infection)

A doctor can help you differentiate between these lesions with the help of necessary tools and tests.

Causes And Risk Factors Of Yeast Infection Of The Breasts

Fungal infections, including yeast infections, fundamentally occur when the fungus receives favorable conditions, such as a warm and moist environment, to thrive. Another leading cause is a poor immune response, often due to hampered immunity since the immune system keeps fungal growth in check.

The following are the commonly identified causes and risk factors of a yeast infection on the breasts (2) (3) (4)
(5) (6).

  • Poor hygiene
  • Tight clothing or synthetic clothes
  • Ill-fitting shirts and bras
  • Infrequent undergarment change
  • Excessive sweating due to conditions, such as hyperhidrosis, or hot and humid weather
  • Obesity
  • History of vaginal yeast infection
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Weak immune system
  • Existing fungal infections
  • Medications, such as steroids, antibiotics, and chemotherapy drugs
  • Women with larger breasts may have more skin folds, causing more sweating under the breasts

A doctor diagnoses most cases of yeast infections of the breast through visual examination. The doctor may scrape a part of the lesion and use the potassium hydroxide (KOH) preparation test to confirm the presence of fungus (7) but it is not always necessary to confirm yeast infection, usually, a physical exam will suffice.

Treatment For Yeast Infection Of The Breasts

The treatment of yeast infection depends on the location and severity of the infection. Topical applications of antifungal drugs as powders, creams, and solutions, are most commonly prescribed.

The following are the commonly used drugs for fungal infections (1).

  • Miconazole
  • Clotrimazole
  • Oxiconazole
  • Ketoconazole
  • Econazole
  • Ciclopirox
  • Nystatin
  • Fluconazole

Lactating mothers of exclusively breastfed infants may be prescribed lactation-safe oral antifungal medicines to prevent the risk of the baby ingesting the topical medication. You may also express and store the milk to feed your baby before applying a topical medicine on the breasts.

Maintenance of good hygiene is also essential to weaken and subdue the spread of the fungus. If fungal infection results from underlying conditions, such as a weak immune system or type 2 diabetes, the doctor may refer you to a relevant specialist. Correct management of the underlying risk factors accompanied by antifungal medication can cure yeast infection in three to four weeks.

Prevention Of Yeast Infection Of The Breasts

The following steps may help prevent yeast infection of the breasts.

  • Maintain optimal hygiene
  • Wash the skin under your breasts with soapy hot water during a shower
  • Give breasts ample time to dry before wearing a bra
  • Avoid wearing an ill-fitting bra that restricts airflow
  • Give yourself bra-free time at home whenever possible
  • Wear clothes of breathy fabrics, such as cotton and linen
  • Avoid wearing very tight clothes
  • Do not be in wet or sweaty clothes for too long
  • Change your breast pads frequently
  • Try to maintain your body weight in the healthy BMI range
  • Maintain your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes
  • If you are on any medicines that suppress immunity, such as steroids, ask your doctor if you need preventive antifungal medications

How Is Thrush Different From Yeast Infection Of The Breasts?

Thrush is also caused by the candida albicans, which is a type of yeast fungi. However, thrush indicates the oral cavity is involved. Yeast infection of the breasts may spread throughthe nipple to cause oral thrush in your infant especially if a breastfeeding mother has sore or cracked nipples (9). A mother may also develop a candida infection of the breast if her breastfeeding baby has oral thrush.

The condition is also treated with oral or topical antifungals. The same medication that can be used to treat your baby’s thrush (oral nystatin typically) can be used on the breast to provide some relief. The best time to give your infant nystatin is after feeding so it stays in the mouth longer. You usually use a dropper for dispensing the liquid into the infant’s mouth and making sure you place it in the cheeks or areas of white patches. It is usually used four times a day. Talk to your doctor about the dosing and how long to treat.

Cutaneous candidiasis is the most prevalent cause of breast yeast infections, affecting the skin folds under the breasts and nipples. Although it might have similar symptoms to eczema, skin allergies, and other skin infections, breast yeast infections are readily treatable and preventable if certain precautions are taken. Therefore, contact your doctor for early diagnosis and treatment if you suspect a breast yeast infection. Adequate hygiene, keeping the breast area dry, changing breast pads frequently, and wearing clothes and innerwear made from breathable fabrics can help prevent breast yeast infections.

Key Pointers

  • Yeast infection of the breasts appears as painful and itchy rashes that are treatable.
  • The infection may arise due to excessive sweating, weakened immunity, or poor hygiene.
  • Your doctor may carry out a physical examination followed by applying antifungal medications. Nursing mothers are recommended oral administration of lactation-safe drugs.
  • Try to maintain proper hygiene, strong immunity, and wear breathable clothing to prevent the infection from developing.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Candidiasis (Yeast Infection);MSD MANUAL
2. Candida infection of the skin;U.S. National Library of Medicine
3. Breast & nipple thrush;The Women’s
4. Candidiasis;National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
5. Yeast Infection While Breastfeeding;Kaiser Permanente
6. KOH Preparation; PeaceHealth
7. Breastfeeding and thrush;NHS
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Dr. Ashley Van Putten

(DO)
Dr. Ashley Van Putten is a board-certified pediatrician. She studied at the University of Florida, then got her Master of Science in Medical Sciences from the University of South Florida and completed her medical training at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine. The Florida-based doctor completed her pediatrics residency in sunny South Florida and currently works in the Fort Lauderdale... more

Dr. Ritika Shah

Dr. Ritika Shah is a dental surgeon with more than seven years of clinical experience across various cities in India. During her clinical practice, pediatric dentistry was her particular area of interest, and she constantly thrived to inculcate the latest advancements in the field of dentistry into her practice. She also holds a certificate in lactation counselling from iNational Health... more