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    Yeast Infection Under Breasts and Nipple Thrush: Symptoms and Treatment

    Published 02 June 2021
    Fact Checked
    Medically reviewed by UNFPA, United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency
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    Yeast infections are relatively common, but did you know that you can also get a yeast infection under your breasts?

    Another name for a breast yeast infection is breast and nipple thrush (BNT). It can develop in moist and warm places — such as skin folds — and appear under the breasts and on the nipples. 

    Signs and symptoms of breast yeast infection

    These are some of the most common symptoms of breast and nipple thrush:

    Rash under breast

    Candida infections on the skin don’t usually generate discharge that smells. A smelly rash under the breasts could signal a different condition, such as a bacterial skin infection.

    Thrush can cause a breast rash that is raised, swollen, tender, shiny, and red. As thrush progresses, the affected area can expand quickly. It can also make the skin flaky, discolored, and cracked.

    Itching

    Fungal infections tend to cause intense itching and burning sensations. These symptoms can range from mild to severe. 

    Nipple pain

    Nipple pain caused by thrush typically occurs after expressing milk. It can also be painful when clothing brushes against the affected area or cause a stabbing or shooting pain during feeds. Nipples may appear bright pink.

    If you experience a sudden increase in breast pain, it could be a bacterial superinfection in addition to the initial thrush.

    You may also see signs of thrush in your baby’s mouth or on your baby’s bottom, or both. Thrush in the mouth causes a thick, white coating on the tongue, white spots on the inside of the cheeks, or both. Thrush on a baby’s bottom looks like a bright red rash with spots around it. This rash does not resolve without antifungal cream.

    How To Recognize and Treat a Yeast Infection

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    Causes

    Thrush is caused by a fungus called Candida albicans, which grows in moist and warm places, such as skin folds. 

    Candida is part of the normal human skin microbiome, which are the bacteria, viruses, and fungi that normally live on our skin. In some cases, our microbiome can experience an overgrowth that leads to infections.

    Yeast infections under breasts commonly occur in conjunction with breastfeeding. However, they can still affect anyone regardless of whether they’re breastfeeding, their breast size, or their age.

    Thrush can occur shortly after beginning to breastfeed, especially if the baby has oral thrush. Oral thrush is especially common for people who had vaginal candidiasis at the time of childbirth or if their baby has taken antibiotics.

    Although thrush doesn’t usually affect healthy skin, it can quickly affect damaged skin, and if left untreated, it may cause severe breast and nipple pain, itching, redness, and inflammation. This can lead to a skin infection if the inflamed area becomes cracked or if scratching causes open sores or raw spots. Other factors that increase the risk of yeast infection on breasts and nipples include:

    • Cracked nipples or skin lesions during breastfeeding
    • Use of breast pads
    • Recent antibiotic use 
    • Previous vaginal yeast infection
    • High stress levels
    • Inadequate diet
    • Chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or HIV
    • Environmental factors, including warm climates and humidity
    • Not rinsing or towel drying the area under or around the breast

    Why You Keep Getting Yeast Infections

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    How to tell breast yeast infection from other conditions

    Other breast infections can cause similar skin symptoms to thrush, including:

    • Herpes, which causes clusters of small, fluid-filled blisters
    • Bacterial infections that cause systemic symptoms like fever and pus discharge
    • Mastitis, which can cause a painful, swollen red lump in the breast
    • Contact dermatitis, which causes a dry, scaly rash that appears after contact with an allergen

    It’s always a good idea to visit your midwife, lactation consultant, or other health care professional for guidance. The first thing your health care provider will do is to take your medical history and perform a physical examination. If the diagnosis is unclear, they may take a sample of discharge or fluid, perform an ultrasound, or request additional lab tests.

    Treatment

    In most cases, thrush can be treated with simple over-the-counter medications. Topical antifungal medications that can be applied directly to the skin are effective for the treatment of fungal skin infections, and they frequently have long-lasting results.

    These medications are often considered the preferred form of treatment for infections like thrush. Common topical and oral antifungal medications used for thrush include:

    • Miconazole
    • Nystatin
    • Clotrimazole
    • Bifonazole