Breast eczema can affect both the areola and the nipple, besides the breast itself. It's more common in women who are breastfeeding, which can make the process painful for the mother, but is harmless for the child.
Eczema can develop almost anywhere on the body where there is skin, including breasts. Women who have persistent eczema on the nipple should also consult a breast specialist, as this form of eczema tends to be commonly misdiagnosed for Paget's disease, which is a type of breast cancer.
The cause of the eczema is still unknown. There were theories that associated eczema with asthma and hay fever. However, those theories are not widely accepted and are under scrutiny from the medical community. It is generally believed that there is a genetic factor included, and that it has something to do with the body's immune system and dry skin.
Experts believe that some allergies and irritation can trigger eczema on the nipple and around the breasts. Common causes of irritation include exercise without a proper sports bra and breastfeeding.
Breast eczema presents itself with usual eczema symptoms:
This type of eczema usually starts with redness, followed by development of bumps and blisters. The skin is very dry and will become scaly and crack, especially if scratched.
Eczema usually itches, but can also cause a burning sensation. Another thing women with breast eczema should keep in mind is that eczema makes your skin susceptible to infections, which can prolong treatment and cause additional discomfort.
Treatment options for breast eczema include:
Petroleum jelly soothes the skin which makes it a great symptom treatment until you see a doctor. Topical steroids are ointments that are applied directly to the affected area. They don't work right away, so they should be given some time to see if they will produce results. In severe cases, anti-inflammatory creams are prescribed. Women who are breastfeeding shouldn't worry about the effects of the topical treatments to the baby, cleaning the nipple before breastfeeding will take care of any problems.
There are several things that can be done to prevent eczema break outs. It's important to moisturize the skin properly. Use cream rather than lotion to keep the skin that's prone to eczema from drying out. Too much moisture also isn't good, so it's good to change bras as soon as possible after sweating.
If breastfeeding, it's generally a good idea to breastfeed evenly on both breasts until the eczema breaks out. When that happens, the breast that hurts less should be used for nursing first.
Breast milk is good for healing and keeping the nipples from drying out, so it can be gently rubbed into the nipple and the areola. The affected breast eczema area shouldn't be washed a lot, and never with perfumed soap. If nothing helps and the symptoms don't improve over three weeks, it's best to be examined by a specialist to rule out the type of cancer with similar symptoms called Paget's disease.
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