Mammary duct ectasia is a benign breast disease. It mainly affects the large duct system of breasts. Most cases of duct ectasia don’t require any treatment or follow-up as it’s a normal part of ageing, and if any symptoms appear, they usually clear up by themselves.
It is possible to treat the condition with warm compresses and antibiotics in rare cases. If the indications do not improve, it may be necessary to have the aberrant duct removed by surgery.
What are ectasia ducts?
Duct ectasia is a breast disease that isn’t cancerous. Instead, age-related changes in the breasts cause it. Lobules (milk-producing glands) and ducts make up the breasts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple). The glandular, fibrous, and fatty tissue surround them.
The ducts under the nipple shrink and broaden as a woman approaches menopause and her breasts age (from 35 years onwards). Duct ectasia is the medical term for this condition. In addition, fluid is sometimes created, which might pool in the enlarged channels.
Although the specific explanation for this is uncertain, evidence shows that duct ectasia is more prevalent among smokers. Duct ectasia may affect men; however, it is pretty uncommon.
Causes and symptoms
Doctors are still baffled as to what develops mammary duct ectasia. However, the following are some plausible causes and risk factors:
- Ageing: As individuals age, their breast tissue undergoes natural changes. These changes might sometimes make it more likely for a duct to become blocked and irritated.
- Inversion of the nipple: The anatomy of a milk duct may alter as a nipple moves inward, increasing the likelihood of a blockage.
- Obesity: Overweight or obese people are more likely to develop mammary duct ectasia than those who maintain a healthy weight.
- Smoking: Smoking has been linked to mammary duct ectasia. According to the research findings, those who smoke are three times more likely to acquire this ailment than those who have never smoked or stopped smoking.
Mammary duct ectasia is frequently asymptomatic, although occasionally persons suffer the following:
- Nipple discharge that is filthy white, greenish, or black from one or both nipples
- Tenderness in the nipple or the breast tissue around it (areola)
- The nipple and areolar tissue are both red
- A bulge or swelling in the breast around the blocked duct
- Inwards turned nipple (inverted)
Mastitis, a bacterial infection that causes breast discomfort, inflammation around the nipple (areola), and fever, might develop in the damaged milk duct.
A simple breast exam may generally detect duct ectasia, and your doctor can make a diagnosis based on this. Then they’ll ask you to cross one arm across your chest. They will next inspect your breast tissue with two fingers, which will be inserted into your breast. This may assist them in feeling for any noticeable lumps or looking for other signs, such as discharge, during the examination.
Additionally, they may recommend that you have a mammogram and perform an X-ray of your breast. You may also be subjected to ultrasound. It is possible to get a detailed picture of the interior of your breast with this imaging technology, which employs high-frequency sound waves.
In addition to providing your doctor with a clearer picture of your breast ducts, these imaging methods may also help them rule out any other possible reasons for your symptoms.
Suppose it seems that you may have an infection. In that case, your physician may decide to test a discharge specimen from the afflicted nipple for disease symptoms as an additional precaution.
If your doctor discovers a lump behind your nipple, they may decide to do a biopsy on the bump. During this operation, your doctor uses a tiny, hollow needle to remove a small tissue sample from your breast and checks it for cancer symptoms.
Mammary duct ectasia may not necessarily need medical intervention. If your symptoms are unpleasant, however, you may choose to consider the following therapy options:
- Antibiotics: If you have an infection caused by mammary duct ectasia, your physician may recommend an antibiotic for 10 to 14 days to treat the illness. Even if your signs significantly improve or entirely vanish after beginning the antibiotic, you must continue to take all of your prescriptions as directed.
- Pain relievers: If you are experiencing breast discomfort, you might take a modest pain medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) as required. Follow your doctor’s advice on which pain medication is most appropriate for your situation.
- Surgery: If an abscess has formed and medications and self-care have failed to relieve the infection, the damaged milk duct may need to be surgically removed. This operation is performed by making a small incision at the border of the pigmented tissue surrounding your nipple and removing the coloured tissue (areola). For mammary duct ectasia, surgery is only seldom required.
Lifestyle and home remedies
You might attempt the following self-care techniques to alleviate the pain related to mammary duct ectasia:
- Use warm compresses: A warm compress to your nipple and surrounding region may help relieve aching breast tissue.
- Use breast pads for nipple discharge: Breastfeeding or breastfeeding pads may help prevent fluid from seeping through your clothes. In addition to medicine shops and many retail establishments that provide infant care supplies, these pads are accessible online.
- Wear a bra that provides support: Choose bras that give enough support to reduce breast soreness. Additionally, a well-fitting bra might help keep the breast pad in position to soak nipple discharge.
- Sleep on the other side: To minimize swelling and increased pain, try to prevent resting on the same side of your body as your afflicted breast.
- End your smoking habit: Cigarette smoking may make it more difficult to cure an infection, and continued smoking may lead to repeated infections or an abscess.
While duct ectasia is unpleasant, it is typically a harmless ailment that goes away independently. You may use various home treatments to manage your symptoms as it fades. A plugged milk duct may need surgery in rare situations. This is usually a painless and straightforward process.
If you see any indications of infection, call your doctor straight away to prevent further concerns, such as an abscess.