A fungal infection can sometimes affect the skin on your breasts and cause itching and rashes, or even discharge and odor. If you suspect you may have this problem, it’s best to deal with it swiftly and take preventive measures to prevent a recurrence. After all, no one wants to be fiddling with their bra and trying to discreetly manage an itch while they’re trying to look professional at the workplace or deal with people at home.
Causes Of Fungal Infections On The Breast
What we call yeast or fungal infections of the breast are typically the result of fungi accumulating and thriving in the moist and warmer areas of your skin. This usually happens where you haven’t dried off properly, or where the bra doesn’t fit right and causes sweating and moisture. It also happens when the excess fat around the breast or upper abdominal area creates layers in which sweat and moisture build up. This tends to happen to large breasted women and those who are carrying around some extra weight. The main kinds of fungal infections that strike the breast are due to dermatophytes. Ringworm is one such fungal infection causing ring-shaped lesions on your skin, and it can get transferred from skin anywhere else on your body to the breast. The fungal spores can be transferred between humans, from animals to humans, or from contaminated surfaces or clothing.1
Another kind of fungal infection, caused by the Candida albicans and responsible for thrush not just of the breast and nipple but also other parts like the vagina, has additional triggers. If you have had a history of vaginal thrush, you may be more susceptible to this kind of infection. Damage to the nipple may also cause breast thrush. Those who have just completed a course of antibiotics may also develop the problem, due to the loss of “good” bacteria in the body which also get diminished in number with antibiotic use.2
Symptoms To Watch Out For
Fungal infections will make their presence felt, but if you’re unsure how to distinguish them from other routine rashes or allergies, then keep an eye out for these symptoms:3
- Burning or itching of the breast and surrounding skin, especially in the fold below the breast
- Peeling or cracking skin
- Red rash on the skin
- Discoloration of the skin
- Shooting pain in one or both breasts
- Pain after nursing your baby that might linger after the feed
- A red/shiny areola (dark skin surrounding the nipple)
- Flaky or cracked nipples
- Musty odor beneath the breast
- Clear thin discharge from the breast
Prevention: Measures To Avoid Fungal Infections On The Breast
Since the infection thrives with warmth and moisture, take away these and you should be able to limit the risk of developing a fungal infection on the breast. Here are some simple things to remember to do.
- Dry up properly after every bath or shower.
- If you tend to sweat a lot, try and change your bra and swap the damp one for a fresh, clean, dry one more often. Take care to wipe the breast and below it before you wear the new one.
- Using only unscented powders to absorb sweat. Do not spray perfumes and deodorants to the area which is already sensitive.
- Women who are very large breasted or are overweight may also need special support bras that prevent the breasts from sagging and covering the skin beneath, creating a damp nook for the infection to develop.
- If you’re a lactating mother, then be sure to change breast pads often and keep nipples dry.
- Decontaminate (by washing thoroughly and sunning) or throw out any bras that you have worn which came in contact with the affected area.
- Wash all bras and nursing pads as well as towels in hot and soapy water and dry outdoors in fresh air, and if possible sunlight, to keep them clean and dry.
- Take care of nipples to prevent cracking which can make it easy for yeast infections to develop.