What Are the Causes of Plugged Ducts?

By Calia Roberts
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Clogged milk ducts, also referred to as plugged or blocked milk ducts, occur when the ducts in a woman's breast become blocked. Each breast contain mammary, or milk, ducts designed to transfer milk from the alveoli, milk-secreting glands, to the nipple. In some cases, certain conditions cause these ducts to become temporarily clogged or blocked, which can result in soreness and inflammation. Typically, clogged milk ducts are painful but not a serious medical condition; however, if symptoms occur, a woman should seek medical attention as a precaution.


Several different reasons could cause a clogged or blocked milk duct. In some cases, the clogged ducts are a result of breast engorgement, a condition that occurs when the milk is in oversupply due to a missed or partial feeding. Other possible causes of clogged milk ducts are constriction from a tight bra, the baby latching on incorrectly, incorrect nursing positioning of the baby and continually applied pressure to one breast by repeatedly sleeping on one side.


Typically, the earliest symptom of a clogged duct is a small lump on the breast, which might be hard, tender or sore. In some cases, redness also occurs near the nipple area on the breast. Typically, any pain a woman experiences is mild and remains localized to the breast area. If infected, a clogged duct condition will present with flu-like symptoms such as feeling achy, feverish and tired.


In most cases, clogged ducts are not serious and can be treatable at home. Frequent nursing is a useful way to treat a clogged duct, as the nursing will empty the breast and reduce inflammation. Varying the nursing position might promote healing and getting plenty of rest is also an essential element of recovery when suffering from a clogged duct condition. In some cases, herbal remedies or anti-inflammatory medication might be helpful; however, it is best to consult with your physician before taking any medication or using any herbal remedies.


Mastitis is a painful condition, which is the result of an infection in the breast tissue and milk ducts. Untreated clogged milk ducts often results in the development of mastitis. This condition occurs due to the stagnant milk in the breast providing an environment for bacteria to grow and flourish. Symptoms of mastitis include intense pain, redness, swelling, a sore or cracked nipple and flu-like symptoms. In some cases, mastitis can lead to the development of an abscess in the breast. An antibiotic treatment is necessary for mastitis lasting more than 24 hours. Seek medical attention at the first sign of the development of mastitis.