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Subareolar abscess

Subareolar abscess is an abscess or growth on the areolar gland. The areolar gland is located in the breast under or below the areola (colored area around the nipple).

Alternative Names

Abscess - areolar gland; Areolar gland abscess

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Subareolar abscess is caused by a blockage of the small glands or ducts below the skin of the areola that result in infection of the glands.

This is an uncommon problem that affects younger or middle-aged women who are not breastfeeding. Risk factors include smoking, diabetes, and nipple piercing.

Symptoms

  • Drainage and possible pus from lump beneath areolar area (colored area around nipple)
  • Fever
  • General ill-feeling
  • Swollen, tender lump beneath areolar area (colored area around nipple)

Signs and tests

The health care provider will perform a breast exam. An ultrasound  of other imaging test of the breast is recommended in some cases. A blood count and a culture of the abscess, if drained, may be ordered.

Treatment

Subareolar abscesses are treated with antibiotics and by opening and draining the infected tissue. This can be done in a doctor's office with local numbing medicine (anesthesic). If the abscess returns, the affected glands should be surgically removed. The abscess can also be drained using a sterile needle. This is often done under ultrasound guidance.

Expectations (prognosis)

Prognosis is good after the abscess is drained.

Complications

Subareolar abscess may return until the affected gland is surgically removed.

Calling your health care provider

Contact your health care provider if you develop a painful lump under the nipple or areola.

References

Hunt KK, Green MC, Buccholz TA. Diseases of the breast. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 36.

Gollapalli V, Liao J, Dudakovic A, Sugg SL, Scott-Conner CEH, Weigel RJ. Risk factors for development and recurrence of primary breast abscesses. J Am Coll Surg. 2010;211:41-48.

Updated: 11/8/2012

Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


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