Having itchy breasts is a common finding and generally occurs with increases in breast size related to weight gain. It can also be related to dry skin, allergies or infection. These situations will often resolve on their own or with treatment prescribed by the doctor.
In some cases, it is possible for itchiness to be accompanied by other symptoms like redness, local swelling, increased breast sensitivity, pain or nipple discharge. These symptoms may be a sign of cancer, in which case treatment should be initiated promptly following diagnosis.
When breast itchiness is very intense, lasts for weeks, or does not improve with home interventions, you should follow-up with your doctor to identify the underlying cause of itching so that appropriate treatment can be started.
The most common causes of itchy breasts are:
1. Skin irritation
Skin irritation is one of the most common causes of itchy breasts, as the skin in this region is very sensitive and reacts easily. Soaps, pergume, moisturizers, laundry detergent and even certain fabrics can trigger a mild skin reaction, leading to itchy breasts.
What to do: You are advised to identify the cause of the irritation and avoid coming in contact with this trigger. If irritation is constantly felt, you may use anti-histamines to relieve allergy-related symptoms.
2. Increased breast size
Breasts can increase during pregnancy, puberty or with weight gain, which can lead to itching. The new swelling causes the skin to stretch, why is why itching is felt on or between the breasts.
Increased size from pregnancy is normal, and occurs due to the production of hormones that is preparing the mother for breastfeeding. Increases during puberty are also normal, and also occur due to hormonal changes. Changes in breast size from weight gain are due to an accumulation of fat tissue in the area.
What to do: Because increases in size are natural and will resolve with time, treatment is usually not indicated. However, if the increased size is due to weight gain and itching is intolerable, you may want to consider being more physically active and adopting a more balanced diet to prevent further increases and itching.
3. Dry skin
Dry skin can also cause itching, and occur with normal skin growth, prolonged sun exposure, very hot baths or use of skin products that irritate the skin.
What to do: In these cases, it is best to avoid the situations that triggered the dry skin. You can use skin moisturizers to stimulate skin regrowth. Most creams can improve skin appearance and reduce itching from dry skin.
4. Skin diseases
Itching is a common symptom of some skin diseases, like psoriasis and eczema. In addition to itching, you may also experience local redness, blistering, scaling wounds and swelling in the area. These skin conditions can affect other areas of the body, like the arms, legs, knees and back for example. Learn more about what can cause psoriasis and the symptoms associated with it, as well as the causes and symptoms of eczema.
What to do: You should see a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment, which will vary with symptom intensity and the patient’s age. The doctor may prescribe creams or ointments with antibiotics, anti-histamines, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants and anti-inflammatories. For psoriasis, you can also consider implementing diet changes that can help to improve inflammation and irritation.
One of the most common causes of itching between and beneath the breasts is a fungal infection, especially an infection with Candida sp. fungus. This fungus is naturally found throughout the body, but it can over-grow when the immune system is weakened. In addition to itching, you may also notice redness, burning, peeling and wounds that have difficulty scarring-over.
Itchy breasts due to fungal infections are more common in women with large breasts, as moisture from sweating can contribute to the development of fungus. Fungal infections in the mouth, known as oral thrush, of breastfeeding babies can also be transmitted to the mother’s nipple and cause infection.
In addition to fungi, infections that cause itchy breasts can also arise from bacteria, which, for example, may be present in bras.
What to do: Infections should be assessed by your doctor to start treatment, which is normally done with the application of creams or ointments that contain antifungals or antibiotics. These should be used as prescribed by your doctor.
In addition, you should change your bra at least every 2 days and pay special attention to hygiene around the breasts, as this area is prone to sweating, which can stimulate microorganism growth.
6. Paget’s disease
Paget’s disease in the breasts is a rare occurrence, and it is mostly seen in women over the age of 50. The main signs of paget’s disease in the breasts is itching in the breast and nipple, nipple changes and local burning.
In more serious cases, there may be skin changes in the skin around the areola and ulceration of the nipple. Therefore, diagnosis and treatment should be made promptly to avoid complications.
What to do: You should see your doctor to assess your symptoms and order diagnostic testing. Once diagnosed, starting treatment is very important to prevent further evolution of this illness. Treatment usually involves surgical removal of the breasts with subsequent sessions of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. When the disease in its early stages, the surgeon can opt to remove only the affected regions.
7. Breast cancer
In rare cases, breast itching can be a sign of breast cancer, especially if it is accompanied by symptoms like cutaneous rupture, increases breast sensitivity, redness, orange peel-like appearance of the skin and nipple discharge.
What to do: If you suspect breast cancer, you should perform a self-assessment on your breast and also ask your doctor to complete a mammogram. Diagnosis is only confirmed through imaging and biopsy, which specifically look to locate and stage the cancer.
Once diagnosed, the oncologist will prescribe the treatment in accordance with the stage of cancer. Treatment may involve chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgical removal of the tumor. Depending on the extent of cancer, the doctor may recommend the removal of one or both of the breasts.