Mastitis is a condition that causes a woman's breast tissue to become painful and inflamed. It is common during breastfeeding, but any can woman can suffer from it, and many do. In Mastitis the breast is usually painful and swollen, sometimes with general feelings of fever, ache and pains, and chilliness.
There are 2 types of mastitis, inflammatory and infectious. Initially it can be caused by an obstruction to a duct which can lead to a small, harm, warm tender lump in the breast. If this is left untreated it can lead to inflammatory mastitis where the whole breast swells, and becomes hard, tender, and hot. If this is untreated or unresponsive can lead to infectious mastitis.
Infectious mastitis can affect the whole body, with fever, chills, malaise, and general flu like symptoms.
CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT OF MASTITIS
NHS Choices says that most cases of non-infectious mastitis can usually be easily treated and most women will make a full recovery very quickly, through a number of self care techniques such as:
- making sure you get plenty of rest
- drinking plenty of fluids
- using over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to reduce pain and fever; a small amount of paracetamol can enter the breast milk but it is not enough to harm your baby (aspirin is not safe to take while breastfeeding)
- not wearing tight-fitting clothing or a bra until your symptoms improve
- placing a warm compress (a cloth soaked with warm water) over your breast to help relieve the pain; a warm shower or bath may also help
Sensible breastfeeding advice, and advice for sore nipples when breastfeeding, is also given.
For infectious mastitis NHS Choices recommends treatment the same self help methods plus antibiotics, to treat bacterial infections, although for breastfeeding women GP advice is required as “a very small amount of the antibiotic may enter your breast milk, and may make your baby irritable and restless, or your baby’s stools looser (runnier) and more frequent”.
It is perhaps surprising that conventional medicine still consider the use of painkillers as a ‘self-help’ measure, and not as a drug treatment, with all its inherent dangers. The NHS Choices webpage does not bother to mention the dangers of either Paracetamol or Ibuprofen (Nurofen), so you will need to click to read what these dangers are. And of course, it is important to realise that painkilling drugs deal solely with the pain, and does not treat the underlying condition itself.
The use of Antibiotics is also becoming increasingly problematical. The problems caused to our health of using antibiotics is now well documented, if still too little known.
And with antibiotic resistance growing, the more these drugs are used, the less effective they are becoming.
HOMEOPATHIC TREATMENT OF MASTITIS
Several remedies are known to be particularly helpful in the treatment of Mastitis, although there are many others, and the task of homeopathy in to find the best matching remedy to the individual. The advantage of using them is that they are safe, and free of the side effects of conventional drugs. These descriptions of the principal remedies used were taken from the “Homeopathy for Women” website.
Aconite: sudden onset (like Belladonna), but without the throbbing pain. The onset often follows a sudden change of weather or exposure to cold air or a cold, dry wind. Usually another remedy is required after Aconite, such as Belladonna or Bryonia.
Arnica: for inflammation follows an injury to the breast. Patients feel sore, bruised, and achy. There is fear to have the part touched.
Belladonna: sudden onset with rapidly rising fever. The breast is hot to touch, engorged, swollen, congested - red, hot breast. Throbbing pain in the breasts. The pain is worse from jarring. The right side is more often affected.
Bryonia: begins often with general chills and fever, stitching pains in the breast and headache. The breast feels hard and stony with stitching, needle-like pains. Any movement aggravates the pain. The patient likes a snug bra. Breast feeding is quite painful. The patient will be quite irritable. Very frequently the patient will experience dizziness or faintness on rising from bed. There is strong thirst and not infrequently constipation.
Croton tiglium: excruciating pain in the nipple which extends straight through to the back (at the level of the shoulder blade) with each suck of the baby. The breasts are very inflamed, swollen, and hard. The nipples may crack.
Hepar sulphur: breasts are very prone to abscess. Extreme sensitivity to the least touch; mothers can't stand for the baby to nurse. Complaints are worse from cold and exposure to the least draft, and better from warmth.
Lac-canium: hypersensitivity to even the slightest touch of clothing on the breasts; jarring also aggravates.
Mercurius: fever, chills, and perspiration without relief; a profuse sweat with a drop in fever; but no subsequent improvement; the patient alternates between hot and cold, uncovering and covering.
Phytolacca: the most common remedy (covers about 50% of mastitis cases. Breasts become lumpy, with hard knots or nodules, the nipples cake. Sore, fissured nipples. Intense pain in the breast as soon as the baby takes hold of the nipple. The pain often extends to the underarm or it can radiate over the whole body. Favors the right breast. Damp heat relieves, such as local poultices. Some patients may have flu-like symptoms as well.
RANDOMISED CONTROLLED TESTS
Unfortunately the only RCT conducted on the treatment of mastitis, of which I am aware, was with the udders of cows rather than with human breasts.
Efficacy of homeopathic and antibiotic treatment strategies in cases of mild and moderate bovine clinical mastitis.
The University of Kassel in Germany designed a controlled clinical trial on 136 lactating cows randomly selected from 4 herds with mastitis that had a negative bacterial test result in their pre-treatment milk samples. The research used both antibiotic and placebo treatment approaches, in addition to classical homeopathy. The study is discussed by Dana Ullman - click here to read this. Homeopathy was found to be as effective as antibiotics, but of course, without the side-effects, and the weakened immune system