Burning in the breast can be described as a burning or "on-fire" sensation of varying degrees of intensity. Most patients find burning sensation in breast and feel uneasy until the source of discomfort is known. Such burning sensation can be caused by a number of causes ranging from benign to life threatening. Here is a list of the possible causes. Check your symptoms and follow the treatment suggestions may help you relieve the pain.
Causes of Burning Sensation in Breast
1. Hormone Fluctuations
Premenstrual syndrome due to hormonal fluctuations may occur during the menstrual cycle. A variety of changes and symptoms can occur including breast swelling, tenderness and burning sensation in the chest and breast region, hot flashes and headache. The massive surge of hormones during pregnancy results in changes in breast tissue. Due to estrogen and progesterone hormones, the ducts in the breasts grow in size and milk production is ramped up quickly. Discomfort, burning and outright pain can occur as the breast tissue swells and stretches.
Treatment. Prescribed medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, diuretics can be used for premenstrual syndrome. To relieve the burning sensations in breast due to pregnancy, try wearing a supportive bra.
Mastitis can cause burning sensation in breast. Known as breast infection, mastitis is a bacterial infection of the breast. The tissue of the breast is made up of ducts, blood vessels, nerves and fat. Underneath all that is the muscular layer of the chest wall. Bacterial infections can occur due to a break in the skin from breast feeding or friction from clothing. Symptoms include redness, pain, and swelling or in the worse cases a pocket of pus will form (abscess).
Treatment. Treatment includes warm compresses, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen. Abscesses require surgical drainage. Breastfeeding moms should continue to breastfeed.
3. Breast Cyst
Breast cysts are pockets within your breast, which are filling with fluids. They are usually benign (not cancer). You can have more than one breast cysts. They are round lumps with clear edges. Symptoms may include tenderness or breast pain in the lump occurring area. Before your period, you may find an increase in breast lump size and experience breast tenderness. After your period, you may have a smaller breast lump.
Treatment. Usually, no treatment is needed for simple breast cysts. If you haven't reached menopause, your doctor may monitor the breast closely cyst to see whether it resolves on its own. Your doctor may recommend pain relievers to you. Using oral contraceptives may help reduce the recurrence of breast cysts. In order to minimize discomfort caused by breast cysts, you can wear a supportive bra. Caffeine may make the symptoms worse, so you should avoid it. Reducing salt intake in your diet will help ease the symptoms, too.
4. Inflammatory Breast Cancer
This rare type of breast cancer results in inflammation of the lymph tissue and causes swelling and pain. The end result is pain, redness along with burning and itching. This cancer can be fast growing and prompt medical attention is needed. Approximately 1-6% of all breast cancers is of this type and often affects younger women. Other symptoms to watch for include thickening of the skin over the breast or nipple, changes in contour such as dimpling or orange peel type appearance.
Treatment. After biopsy for diagnosis, treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. A combination of all three may be needed for successful treatment.
5. Paget's Disease
Paget's disease can bring burning sensation in breast. This rare form of breast cancer begins around the nipple and areola and spreads deeper. Often overlooked as dry skin, this breast cancer is often ignored as people try home remedies for skin problems before seeking medical advice. Paget's may involve only the skin of the nipple, but often there is underlying cancer in the ducts of the breast. Women over 50 years of age are the most commonly affected group. Itching, burning and skin flaking are all signs that can signify this form of breast cancer. Anytime, inversion or retraction of a nipple is always a worrisome sign.
Treatment. Treatment includes lumpectomy, complete mastectomy and is often accompanied by chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
6. Peripheral Neuropathy
Nerves are highly sensitive to any irritants. Neuropathy is a condition where the nerve is constantly irritated and inflamed or compressed by an adjacent structure. Other common causes include poorly controlled diabetes or cancer chemotherapy drugs. Symptoms include burning pain, shooting shock like pain or a sensation of being on fire. This type of pain can occur after a shingles outbreak. Shingles is a reactivation of a prior chicken pox infection.
Treatment. Treatment is directed toward alleviating the irritation or compression of the nerve. If a spinal nerve is being pinched or compressed, surgery or steroid injections may help. The pain from shingles or other causes of neuropathy can be difficult to manage. Treatment often includes a variety of medications to decrease and modify the perception of pain. At times antidepressants and anticonvulsant medications are used to modify and diminish the perception of neuropathic (nerve related) pain. Common sense lifestyle modifications such as a balanced diet, exercise and smoking cessation are important aspects of pain control.
This common condition results from inflammation of the cartilage of the ribs as they attach to the breast bone (sternum). This condition is known by a variety of names including chest wall pain, Tietze syndrome and costosternal chondrodynia. Common symptoms include pain on the side of the breastbone, pain when breathing and coughing and tenderness when pushing on the area. Costochondritis can involve more than one rib. The cause of this painful condition is elusive. Theories include minor trauma or viral infections, but most often no identifiable cause can be found.
Treatment. A doctor will evaluate you for other more serious causes depending on your age, risk factors for heart or lung disease or injury and generally prescribe treatment to alleviate symptoms. Options often include anti-inflammatory medications, ice or heat compress and occasionally physical therapy. Activities that trigger pain should be avoided.
Diabetics may experience burning and paresthesias in a variety of body areas. Diabetes affects the ability of the body to handle sugar (glucose). Nerves become inflamed and/or entrapped due to the global effects of diabetes on the body. The result is pain felt in the chest or breast. Diabetics also have altered perception of pain and burning the chest in a diabetic person can signify heart disease or a heart attack. Any diabetic with chest burning should seek immediate medical care.
Treatment. Once a serious cause of chest burning is ruled out by a doctor, the focus is on treating the pain and controlling blood sugar. A combination of anti-inflammatories and other medications can be used. Gabapentin and Lyrica are commonly used medications that help control the discomfort associated with nerve pain in diabetic patients. Topical medications such as capsacian can also help relieve nerve pain. This extract from peppers helps to modulate and decrease the perception of pain. Lifestyle changes such as decreasing alcohol intake, proper diet, exercise and daily multivitamins are a valuable strategy to help with diabetic related nerve symptoms.
This burning or numb sensation is commonly felt in the extremities but may be noted in the chest or face as well. Diabetes is the most common reason for experiencing paresthesias. Tingling or numb sensation are also common descriptions of paresthesias.
Treatment. Treatment for paresthesias is directed at the underlying cause. If a chemical, drug, toxin is the cause then discontinuation is the first step. Vitamin deficiencies can also cause paresthesias and nutritional supplementation often resolves symptoms. This is common in alcoholics. Tight control of blood sugar is an important strategy for diabetics who experience paresthesias. Additional drugs can help minimize the discomfort caused by diabetic paresthesias (neuropathy). If a nerve is pinched or irritated, alleviating the cause of that will often improve or relieve paresthesias.
When to See a Doctor
Call 911 when chest burning is accompanied by chest pain or tightness, nausea, shortness of breath or severe or sudden onset pain. Diabetics with a new chest burning sensation need to be evaluated by a doctor. If burning in the chest is accompanied by numbness or weakness on one side of the body or face, a stroke may be occurring and 911 needs to be called immediately.