As normal, functioning human beings, sometimes we get itchy. And depending on where we get those itches and how they feel, it’ll compel us to think of a bunch of different reasons why we’re itching or what to do about it. Things like itchy feet, hands and arms aren’t things to worry too much about most of the time.
But, what about itchy breasts? Don’t lie, you’ve definitely Googled it before, and now you’re stuck wondering if you should be more worried than you are because you might have some sort of serious illness or if you should just scratch a little more aggressively to satisfy the urge.
More: How Your Breasts Age
What’s that itch?
So, what do itchy breasts really mean? Well, there are a variety of different reasons that could explain why they’re itchy, and they all range from trivial to serious. It all depends on the severity of the itching, if any other symptoms accompany it, or if it feels like something’s happening that shouldn’t be.
Normally, your gut senses serve you right, and if something’s going wrong with your body it’ll be able to tell you so.
According to Dr. Mimi Trinh, a family physician at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, “breast itching can occur for many different reasons including eczema, allergy or fungal irritation.”
Some of the less serious reasons could be things like atopic dermatitis — also known as eczema — irritation from cleaners, perfumes, soaps, fibers, mastitis (which is only common in new mothers who are breastfeeding) or even something as simple as a food allergy or bug bite.
Breast itchiness could also be caused by infections, and since the skin fold beneath the breast is warm and moist, it serves as a good environment for bacteria to grow. Some infections that could possibly cause breast itchiness include candidiasis (also known as a yeast infection), chicken pox, pinworm (the most common worm infection in the United States) and scabies (another kind of skin infestation from mite infection).
The less concerning case of contact dermatitis, which is when the skin reacts to a foreign substance, can happen just with touching certain cosmetics, dyes, detergents, industrial chemicals like those found in latex and rubber, certain metallic substances or plants like poison ivy or poison oak.
Other symptoms to look out for
To kick it up a notch, there are some other localized symptoms that could accompany the itchiness, and these serve to enhance the issue and make it something a little more necessary for a doctor’s visit. Things like coughing, fever and chills, headaches, joint stiffness and pain, runny nose, sore throat and sweating (so your basic, run-of-the-mill flu symptoms) could occur as well.
Some bodily changes that could come along with breast itchiness include breast lumps, bruising, crusting or flaking skin, pus or discharge, a rash, redness, swelling, tenderness or pain. These symptoms could indicate an underlying problem that encompasses more than just the chest area, and a doctor should most definitely be consulted.
Some incredibly serious side effects or accompanying effects that could occur with breast itchiness — and if they do, then a doctor’s visit is more than highly suggested — include a change in your level of consciousness or alertness; respiratory problems; sudden swelling of the face, lips or tongue; tightness in your throat; or general worsening of your current symptoms.
If you experience these conditions along with your breast itchiness, it could possibly signify serious life threatening issues, and you should see a doctor immediately to rule out any serious possibilities.
Trinh told SheKnows that if your symptoms persist for “more than a few weeks or if it begins to spread or result in a rash, it should be evaluated by a physician.” She also indicated that a skin biopsy is an easy procedure that can be done in your physician’s office, and it can help narrow down the possibilities and confirm whether your symptoms suggest something dangerous or benign.
Like most body concerns, there is always a wide range of things that could happen, from incredibly simple to concerning. But when in doubt, the best thing you can do is visit your doctor.