Mastitis, also called milk fever, is an inflammation of breast tissue resulting from blocked milk ducts, according to the Australian Breastfeeding Association. Milk ducts become blocked by milk which has not cleared and which settles into surrounding breast tissue.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association explains that milk fever commonly appears soon after childbirth, manifesting as a painful mass in the breasts. Other symptoms include shivers and aches. The area of inflammation appears shiny red with streaks and is hot to the touch. The condition occurs in both breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers.
According to eMedicineHealth, milk fever begins when milk from a baby’s mouth or on the nipple enters cracks in the skin, promoting an infection or abscess. The resulting infection exacerbates the milk fever. Treatment for milk fever revolves around improved breastfeeding technique or suppression of lactation for non-breastfeeding mothers. Cold packs reduce inflammation and lessen pain. Warm showers and heat packs, used sparingly, provide additional relief. Rest is also recommended. Antibiotics are prescribed for severe infections.
EMedicineHealth points out that other situations in which mastitis occurs include breast infections in postmenopausal women with infections resulting from chronic inflammation of the ducts below the nipple. Dead skin cells and debris clog milk ducts as a result of hormonal changes, promoting infection. This type of mastitis is typically treated with antibiotics.