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Subareolar abscess

Definition

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

Subareolar abscess is caused by a blockage of the small glands or ducts below the skin of the areola. This blockage leads to infection of the glands.

This is an uncommon problem that affects younger or middle-aged women who are not breastfeeding. Risk factors include:

  • Diabetes
  • Nipple piercing
  • Smoking

Symptoms

Symptoms of an areolar abscess are:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will perform a breast exam. Sometimes an ultrasound or other imaging test of the breast is recommended. 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. 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.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outlook is good after the abscess is drained.

Possible Complications

Subareolar abscess may return until the affected gland is surgically removed. Any infection in a female who is not nursing has the potential to be a rare cancer. You may need to have a biopsy or other tests if standard treatment fails.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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

References

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.

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.


Review Date: 11/16/2014
Reviewed By: Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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