When one or more milk ducts under your nipple enlarge, this is known as mammary duct ectasia. Sometimes the duct walls of your mammary gland may thicken, and the ducts get filled with fluid.
In addition, a thick, sticky material may get stuck or obstructed in the milk duct. Although most women have no symptoms, others may experience nipple discharge, breast pain, or irritation of the plugged duct (periductal mastitis).
Mammary duct ectasia is most common in women approaching menopause, at 45 to 55, although it may also develop beyond menopause. Without therapy, the problem often improves. However, if the symptoms continue, your doctor may advise a course of antibiotics or surgery to treat the damaged milk ducts.
Though it’s natural to be concerned about abnormalities in your breasts, periductal mastitis and mammary duct ectasia aren’t breast cancer risk factors.
What are mammary duct ectasia and its causes?
A noncancerous breast ailment known as mammary duct ectasia causes inflammation (swelling) of the breasts and thickening of the milk ducts. It is referred to as duct ectasia or periductal mastitis.
Mammary duct ectasia may affect anybody at any age. Women nearing menopause are more likely to be affected by this illness. It may also occur after a woman has gone through menopause.
Each of your breasts is composed of connective tissues, which contain a system of microscopic tubes that transport milk to and from the nipples (milk ducts). When a milk duct behind the nipple expands, this condition is known as mammary duct ectasia.
The duct walls can thicken and fill with fluid, resulting in a blockage or clogging with a sticky material. In addition, inflammation may occur.
Researchers are baffled as to what develops mammary duct ectasia in the first place. Some suggest that the following factors are responsible:
- Age-related changes in breast tissue: As you get older, the makeup of your breast tissue shifts from being primarily glandular to being predominantly fatty, a process known as involution. These natural breast changes may sometimes result in a clogged milk duct and the inflammation related to mammary duct ectasia, a medical condition.
- Smoking: It is possible that cigarette smoking is related to a widening of milk ducts, resulting in irritation and, in the worst-case scenario, mammary duct ectasia.
- Inversion of the nipple: Inflammation and infection may result from a newly inverted nipple obstructing milk ducts. A nipple that has recently been inverted may indicate a more severe underlying illness, such as malignancy.
Symptoms of duct ectasia
Symptoms of mammary duct ectasia are not always present. Some of them include:
- The nipple discharges a green-brown discharge
- The duct beneath the nipple has gotten blocked, resulting in a lump
- Inversion of the nipple occurs when the nipple turns inward
- Tenderness or pain around the blocked duct
- Reddening of the skin around the afflicted duct
- Swelling in the area of the nipple
Additional signs and symptoms may occur if an infection forms in the milk duct. Mastitis is the medical term for this condition, and it causes symptoms such as:
- Breast Swelling
- Intense discomfort
- Malaise, or a general sensation of ill health
- Redness on the skin, maybe in the form of a wedge
- The skin surrounding the infection site is warm
Mastitis, a bacterial infection that causes breast discomfort, inflammation, and fever with or without chills, may occur in the milk duct.
If left untreated, duct ectasia may develop into an abscess that must be drained immediately.
Treatment of duct ectasia
Generally, mammary duct ectasia does not require treatment. However, a doctor may offer therapies to ease symptoms if the issue harms a person’s quality of life.
Some of the therapy options include:
Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, may help alleviate discomfort, tenderness, and swelling in the breast. However, it’s best to take these drugs under the supervision of a physician.
If the symptoms of mastitis do not improve with home care, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Mammary duct ectasia seldom needs surgery. Surgery is usually reserved for patients who have signs that do not react to medicine or home remedies.
Some of the surgical options include:
- A microdochectomy is a technique that involves the removal of a clogged milk duct.
- In a total/complete duct excision, all the primary milk ducts in the breast are surgically removed.
Doctors frequently provide general anaesthesia to patients having these treatments so that they are not conscious throughout the process and do not experience any discomfort.
The surgeon will make a tiny cut or incision in the areola, the dark skin surrounding the nipple. The ducts will then be removed, and the incision will be stitched up. There will be a tiny scar at the incision site after the treatment, but it will diminish with time.
Can duct ectasia cause or increase the cancer risk?
Although mammary duct ectasia is unpleasant, it is not linked to a higher risk of breast cancer or other consequences. Even though you might not notice any indications at first, they might be mistaken for signs of other disorders that must be cleared out when they do appear.
Any indicators of an infection or abscess, such as increasing discomfort or fever, should be discussed with your healthcare professional.
When a milk duct gets clogged and clogs up with fluid, it is known as mammary duct ectasia. It is not a life-threatening disorder that increases the chance of breast cancer. However, it may create pain and, in rare cases, develop into an infection that needs treatment.
Because some of the signs of mammary duct ectasia are similar to those of breast cancer, patients should consult a doctor for a breast inspection. Consult a specialist if your symptoms are not relieved and last longer than expected.