How can you tell the difference between a blocked duct and mastitis?

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Mastitis is due to an infection (almost always due to bacteria rather than other types of germs) that usually occurs in breastfeeding mothers. However it can occur in any woman, even if she is not breastfeeding and can even occur in newborn babies of either sex. Nobody knows exactly why some women get mastitis and others do not. Bacteria may enter the breast through a crack or sore in the nipple but women without sore nipples also get mastitis and most women with cracks or sores do not. Mastitis is different from a blocked duct because a blocked duct is not thought to be an infection and thus does not need to be treated with antibiotics. With a blocked duct, a mother has a painful, swollen, firm mass in the breast. The skin overlying the blocked duct is often red, but less intensely red than the redness of mastitis. Unlike mastitis, a blocked duct is not usually associated with fever, though it can be. Mastitis is usually more painful than a blocked duct, but both can be quite painful. Thus seeing the difference between a “mild” mastitis and a “severe” blocked duct may not be easy. It is also possible that a blocked duct goes on to become mastitis, so things become even more complicated. However, without a lump in the breast, there is no mastitis or blocked duct for that matter.

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A blocked duct is where the flow of milk is obstructed in an area of the breast. It usually occurs gradually. Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that could be caused by obstruction, infection or an allergy. It may come on abruptly and is usually and is usually associated with fever and likely to be more painful than a blocked duct. With either conditions, heat and gentle massage before nursing may help ease the discomfort. While nursing, continue to nurse on the affected breast and try to get a good latch. After nursing, pump or express milk to help empty the breast. Apply cold compress to ease pain and inflammation. For more information on both conditions, you may find this article useful:

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