What is a Breast Fungus?
A breast fungus is a fungal infection of the skin under the breast, specifically on the skin folds between the breast and chest wall. Like all types of skin fungus, a breast fungus tends to thrive in a warm, dark and moist environment and the area under the breast provides this ideal environment. A breast skin fungus is often a candida infection of the skin and is known as submammary candidiasis or cutaneous candidiasis. Less commonly it may be due to an infection with another types of skin fungus known as a dermatophyte, which is more often responsible for common fungal skin infections like of the feet (athlete’s foot or tinea pedis).
What Causes a Fungal Infection under the Breast?
Causes of Breast Fungus
A breast fungus is caused by skin fungi, either a dermatophyte or yeast (candida). The candida type of fungus is more often involved but a dermatophyte may also be responsible. A breast fungus often occurs in women with larger busts, either due to a naturally large bust, breast augmentation (breast enlargement), breastfeeding and with breast swelling in pregnancy.
A fungal infection will not affect every woman and is more often in women who wear tight brassieres (bra) or have a pre-existing skin disorder on the affected area, like psoriasis, eczema or seborrheic dermatitis. It specifically affects the fold of skin between the breast and chest wall. Therefore this infection is known as candidiasis and more correctly as submammary candidasis since the folds under the breast are known as the submammary folds or inframammary folds.
Constant scratching in itchy skin conditions or minor cuts and chaffing caused by tight bras (intertrigo) exposes the area to a fungal infection. Therefore the alternative name for submammary candidiasis is intertriginous candidiasis. Fungi are then quick to infect the damaged tissue. It is often the fungi that naturally occur on the skin, like Candida albicans, that are responsible for the infection. However, a skin fungal infection elsewhere on the body may also be transferred to the area under the body by carrying fungal strands and spores on the fingernails or using a common piece of clothing or towel.
What does Fungus under the Breast look like?
Signs and Symptoms of a Breast Fungus
A breast fungus presents similar to other types of skin fungal infections. There is inflammation of the skin, appearing red and swollen initially. The condition is usually itchy with dark brown specks noticed after scratching or within the clothing and bra. Moisture may be noticed on the affected area with a musty odor. With time, a dark discoloration of the skin under the breast will occur and the skin becomes rough and dry. The hyperpigmentation (dark skin discoloration) can be permanent even after successful treatment of the breast fungus.
Since submammary candidasis tends to occur on damaged or chaffed skin, the area may be raw and red in color. Candida infections of the skin tend to affect the deeper lying tissue compared to other more common fungal skin infections caused by dermatophytes. These dermatophyte infections (dermatophytosis) are limited to the outermost (superficial) layers of the skin. Therefore submammary candiasis may also be painful and tender to touch.
How is Fungus under the Breast Treated?
Treatment of a Breast Fungus
Antifungal ointments are effective in eradicating the fungal infection and should be continued for 6 weeks to 2 months to prevent any recurrence of the infection. Oral antifungals, in the form of tablets or capsules, are not commonly used but may need to considered if the breast fungal infection recurs or is persistent and not easing with topical treatment alone.
These antifungal drugs include:
Drying agents like antifungal powders should be used as a preventative, especially after bathing. If the skin irritation persists after the fungal infection resolves, a mild corticosteroid cream can be used to relieve itching and assist with normal skin growth. Sometimes antibiotics may first be prescribed if the affected skin has become infected by bacteria. Once this bacterial skin infection resolves, the fungal infection is then treated.
Although there are many different types of over-the-counter antifungal creams and ointments available, it is highly advisable that the treatment is prescribed by a doctor. This will require a consultation and examination of the affected area. A dermamatologist should be consulted where possible. The choice of treatment is largely dependent on the findings of the physical examination.
How to Prevent a Fungus under the Breast
Prevention of a Breast Fungus
- Always ensure the affected area is thoroughly dried with a towel after you bathe.
- Use properly sized bras. ‘Push up’ bras should be avoided.
- Try to ventilate the area with thin, cool clothing.
- Avoid scratching the affected area as it allows the fungus to persist.