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Mammary Duct Ectasia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

Nov 14, 2023

Mammary Duct Ectasia Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

Mammary duct ectasia is the enlargement of one or more milk ducts beneath your nipple. The duct may get clogged with liquid and its walls may thicken. The milk duct may become blocked by a thick, sticky substance. Some women may experience breast soreness, nipple discharge, or inflammation of the clogged duct (periductal mastitis), even though the disease often shows no symptoms.

It can occur after menopause, mammary duct ectasia typically affects women between the ages of 45 and 55 during the perimenopause. In many cases, the illness improves on its own without therapy. You may need to take antibiotics or have the damaged milk duct surgically removed if the symptoms don't go away.

While it makes sense to be concerned about any changes to your breasts, periductal mastitis, and mammary duct ectasia aren't risk factors for breast cancer.

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Causes Of Mammary Duct Ectasia

A system of tiny channels known as milk ducts runs throughout the connective tissues that comprise your breasts, carrying milk to the nipples. Mammary duct ectasia is the term for the enlargement of a milk duct beneath the nipple. A sticky substance may clog or restrict the flow through the duct walls if they become thicker and fill with liquid. There could be an uptick.

Professionals cannot pinpoint the exact cause of mammary duct ectasia. The following are some theories as to why:

  • Breast tissue alterations with age: When you age, most of your breast tissue becomes fatty rather than glandular due to a process called involution. An obstructed milk duct may occasionally arise from the normal changes in the breasts.
  • Smoking: The expansion of the milk ducts brought on by cigarette smoking may irritate the glands and may result in mammary duct ectasia.
  • Flipping over the nape: Irritation and infection may arise from a recently inverted nipple-related milk duct blockage. A newly inverted nipple could potentially be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition, such as cancer.

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Symptoms Of Mammary Duct Ectasia

While mammary duct ectasia seldom causes symptoms, some people do

  • A dirty discharge, either black, green, or white, coming from one or both nipples.
  • Sensitivity in the nipple or the area surrounding the breast tissue (areola)
  • Redness in the nipples and areolar tissue
  • A growth or lump in the breast adjacent to the blocked duct
  • An inverted, nipple

Furthermore, in the affected milk duct, a bacterial infection known as mastitis may develop, causing fever, inflammation of the areola surrounding the nipple, and breast pain.

The symptoms and indicators of mammary duct ectasia may resolve on their own.

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Diagnosis Of Mammary Duct Ectasia

Depending on the information you provide your doctor and the results of a physical examination, you could need additional testing for things like:

  • Sonography of areola and nipple for diagnostic purposes: An ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of the breast tissue. It makes it possible for your doctor to check the milk ducts under your breast. With a diagnostic ultrasound, your physician can focus on an area that seems questionable.
  • MRI for medical diagnosis: Your doctor can evaluate the tissue in your breasts by using the X-ray images that a mammogram provides. A diagnostic mammography provides you with more detailed images of a specific breast area than a screening mammography does.

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Treatment Of Mammary Duct Ectasia

It's not always required to have treatment for mammary duct ectasia. If your symptoms are bothersome, though, you might be able to deal with them by:

  • Antibiotics: Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic for ten to fourteen days to treat an infection caused by mammary duct ectasia. Even if your symptoms considerably lessen or disappear completely after taking the antibiotic, make sure you finish the entire prescription as prescribed.
  • Pain medication: Try taking a mild pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc.), if you have breast discomfort. Follow your doctor's advice whenever they recommend a pain reliever.
  • Surgery: If self-care and medicine don't work to treat an abscess, the damaged milk duct may need to be surgically removed. This procedure is done by a little incision created at the edge of the pigmented tissue that surrounds your nipple, or the areola. Surgery is rarely necessary for mammary duct ectasia.

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Complications Of Mammary Duct Ectasia

Complications from mammary duct ectasia are usually less harmful and more uncomfortable. They might include:

  • Breast discharges: Breast discharge associated with mammary duct ectasia can be bothersome. Clothing stains and unsightly wetness can be caused by nipple fluid leaks.
  • Sore breasts: Mammary duct ectasia can cause the area around your nipples to become red, puffy, and sensitive.
  • Contamination: A fever, a generalized sensation of illness, or pain at or around the nipple can occasionally arise from an inflammatory infection (periductal mastitis) in the affected milk duct. Pain that is getting worse and persistent redness could be signs of a bacterial infection. An abscess, or buildup of pus in your breast tissue, could be the result of this infection and require surgical drainage.
  • Fear of getting breast cancer: You could worry that the change in your breast could be a sign of breast cancer if you start to feel a firm lump around your areola or nipple. A history of mammary duct ectasia does not raise the risk of breast cancer. However, you should see your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any changes to your breasts.

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