Itchy breasts can be a result of several factors. Some of the common causes are:
Puberty: Hitting puberty is one of the most common physiological causes of itching in breasts. In girls, this is the time when there is budding of breasts. Because of hormonal changes in the body, the breast tissue expands rapidly. As the skin over the breasts is stretched considerably, it can lead to itching. Though the changes persist for three to four years till the breasts have attained their size, the itching normally stops within a year or two as the skin gets adapted to these changes. Apart from itching, the breasts often feel tender at this stage.
Allergy: This is again a very common cause of itchy breasts and should be ruled out before thinking of any other cause. Many a times, the skin gets irritated by certain chemicals which are present in the laundry detergents. Some of these chemicals may get left behind in the bra and irritate the skin activating the immune system of the wearer. This may lead to redness, development of rashes and constant itching. Similarly, itching may be a result of body's allergic reaction to certain soaps, creams and other skin care products. Applying moisturizers is beneficial in most of the cases. The physician may recommend use of topical steroids in some patients.
Benign skin conditions: Certain benign skin conditions like eczema of the breasts may also lead to itching. It generally responds to topical steroid application. In women with large breasts, excessive sweating under the fold of the breasts may lead to itching. Wearing a tight bra or friction produced by rubbing of the skin to the clothes may also produce itching.
Infection: Women who are breast feeding often suffer from itchy breasts. This is because breastfeeding leads to drying and cracking of nipples followed by secondary infection. This condition is called as mastitis and is characterized by tenderness, redness and itching in the breasts. Mastitis is usually accompanied by fever and generalized malaise. It is treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicines.
Breast cancer: Itchy breasts can also be a symptom of breast cancer. However, one should rule out all other causes of itchy breasts before considering breast cancer. Two types of breast cancer are accompanied by itching- inflammatory breast cancer and Paget's disease. Inflammatory breast cancer is a very aggressive form of breast cancer and constitutes 1% to 6% of all breast cancer cases. This type of cancer is characterized by severe pain, redness and itching of the breasts and is often mistaken as some sort of breast infection.
Paget's disease of the breast is an extremely rare type of cancer. It involves the nipple and the skin around it. The characteristic features of Paget's disease of breast include dryness and flakiness of the skin, flattening of the nipple along with a reddish/yellowish discharge from it and severe itching. Because of its presentation, the disease is often confused with other benign skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis.
It is good to be aware of the fact that itchy breasts can be a symptom of breast cancer because early diagnosis of the condition augments the effectiveness of the treatment.
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