Breast swelling refers to the enlargement of one or both breasts, typically accompanied by soreness or pain. A sensation of soreness typically occurs during menstrual periods, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause. The main cause of swollen breasts and tenderness is hormone fluctuations. Estrogen and progesterone levels shift during menopause, pregnancy, and menstruation.
Nearly every woman who has gone through premenstrual syndrome (PMS), pregnancy, or menopause has experienced breast swelling to some extent. The main cause of breast swelling is the fluctuation of hormone levels in the body. These changes in hormone levels can impact the breast tissue. There are several other causes of breast swelling. These causes, although uncommon, are more serious, and it is recommend you contact a doctor in such cases. These causes include:
Infection. Most commonly caused by clogged sebaceous glands or breastfeeding. Infection normally results in sore, swollen breasts.
Tumors. Benign tumors can form within the breasts. Benign tumors are typically painless; however, the bigger they get, the more likely you are to experience breast swelling and tenderness.
These causes can be life-threatening, but early detection is key to staying ahead. A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray scan that checks breasts for any abnormalities (i.e., lumps or masses). A breast exam can be done by a general practitioner or by a gynecologist. Scheduling mammograms and breast exams every year is recommended for women 50 - 74 years of age. Women below that age should still receive regular breast exams.
Managing Swollen Breasts
There are several home remedies to help manage breast pain due to swelling. Since the main cause of swollen breasts is hormone fluctuations, it is important to try regain hormonal balance. This can be achieved by maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Herbal remedies like chasteberry can also help alleviate breast pain. This herb has been used for hundreds of years to provide relief against various PMS and menopausal symptoms. Other simple pain relief options include applying an ice pack directly to the breast, taking a warm bath, and wearing a soft, supportive bra when doing any kind of activity.
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- National Institutes of Health. (2012). Breast - premenstrual tenderness and swelling. Retrieved July 17, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003153.htm
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2014). Breast pain. Retrieved July 17, 2014, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/ency/articles/breast-pain