Breast Fungus (Itchy Fungal Rash) Causes, Pictures, Treatment

What is a breast fungus?

A breast fungus is a common term for a fungal infection of the skin overlying the breast. It does not imply an infection of the deeper breast tissue. Fungal skin infections are common and the most affected sites are the feet (athlete’s foot) and groin (itch) although skin anywhere on the body can be affected. The area under the breast (inframammary fold) is particularly prone to fungal infections in women for a number of reasons that makes this region ideal for fungi to thrive.

Most fungal skin infections persist without medical treatment therefore it has to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. The infection can spread to eventually affect the top of the breast and even the cleavage. One of the consequences of a long term fungal skin infection is a dark discoloration of the skin which can be unsightly. There are usually no other significant complications of a breast fungus. The symptoms are limited to the skin. Fungal skin infections almost never penetrate into deeper tissue to infect internal organs.

Causes of A Fungus Under the Breast

Fungi thrive on dead matter and the outermost layers are ideal since these skin cells are dead and protein-rich. Certain fungi have a predilection for human skin and are known as dermatophytes. It has special enzymes that can digest the skin protein. In most instances these infections are superficial and never penetrate deeper tissue. Yeasts thrive in cavities lined by living tissue but the immune system usually prevents it from causing an infection. The dark, warm and moist conditions under the breast is ideal for any skin fungus to thrive and even spread with time.

Types of Fungi

  • Dermatophytes may be transferred from skin fungal infections elsewhere on the body. It is commonly termed as ringworm due to the red-ring like lesions that these types of fungi cause.
  • Yeasts can also cause these infections but usually only do so when the skin is torn and the underlying tissue is exposed (open sores or cuts). Candida species are the main yeasts to infect the areas. This is is then known as inframammary or submammary candidiasis.

Risk Factors

Women with larger breasts, who wear tight bras, sweat excessively and live in humid environments are particularly prone to these types of infections. Large breasts usually mean that the fungi can thrive in a warm, dark and moist environment within the inframammary fold. Tight underwire bras especially can lead to chaffing and breaks in the skin. Scratching due to itchy breasts causes micro-tears and further increases the risk of infections. Perspiration provides the moisture that these fungi need for survival.

Women who have fungal infections elsewhere on the body may also be at a greater risk of a breast fungus. The fungi may be transferred by the fingers during scratching from one site, like the feet or groin, to the breasts. Most fungal infections require the skin to be compromised in some way for the infection to set it. Apart from tears in the skin caused by scratching or chaffing, pre-existing diseases like contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis or psoriasis especially around the inframammary folds can increase the chance of a breast fungus.

Symptoms of a Breast Fungus

The following signs and symptoms are usually present:

  • Itching under the breasts in the inframammary fold.
  • Peeling, cracking and shedding of the skin.
  • Red skin rash.
  • Dark discoloration of the skin.
  • Thin, clear discharge.
  • Unusual musty odor under the breast.

Sometimes the symptoms are not as obvious. Some women may only experience mild itching and a skin-colored ‘dust’ on the bra or upon scratching. The skin symptoms can extend beyond the inframammary folds to affect the breast and even the chest. Many women are concerned about the dark discoloration of the skin that occurs with long-standing infections.

If a breast fungus is not treated as soon as possible, the skin discoloration may be permanent. Bacterial infections can occur secondarily. This can be serious especially if the infection extends to the tissue under the skin (subcutaneous tissue). Bacterial symptoms include swelling, redness, pain, tenderness and a fever. It needs prompt treatment with antibiotics.

Pictures of Breast Fungus

The skin rash seen in a dermatophyte infection often differs from the rash with an yeast infection. The pictures below show the fungal infections due to dermatophytes and yeasts around the armpits to illustrate these differences.

tinea armpit

Picture of red ring lesions (‘ringworm’) in deramtophytosis.

candidiasis armpit

Picture of candidiasis (yeast infection)

Treating a Fungal Infection Under the Breast

A breast fungus may appear similar to other skin diseases and it is important that your doctor diagnose a skin fungal infection before commencing treatment. Using an antifungal ointment for a few months usually resolves the infection although oral antifungals may have to be considered in severe cases. A corticosteroid cream may be used if the itching and inflammation is severe but should be a short term  measure. The affected area may become dry and start cracking or peeling and a suitable emollient may be necessary.

Prevention

It is important to identify any predisposing conditions that may be contributing towards a persistent breast fungus. Tight underwear or poorly designed bras are by far the most common cause of chaffing under the breast and should be changed immediately. Treating any pre-existing skin conditions should be the first consideration to prevent a skin fungus from setting in. An antifungal drying powder may be useful for reducing the sweat and moisture under the breast, especially in women with larger busts or those who tend to perspire profusely.

Never share personal items like bras as the infection can be easily spread from one person to another. A prolonged fungal infection under the breast usually causes a dark discoloration of the skin which may not resolve spontaneously. This can be quite distressing for most women and it is therefore important to attend to a breast fungus as soon as it appears. Always consult with a medical doctor for the appropriate treatment or the fungal infection may persist, spread and affect surrounding skin.

More Related Topics

  • susan vazquez

    I have a chronic fungal infection under my breast that has caused discoloration of my skin under the breast. I get often but never tell my doctor. What is the best over the counter anti fungal cream that would work best?
    Thanks for your help.

    Susan

    • Dr. Peter

      Hi Susan

      You should discuss this with your doctor before starting any cream. In severe cases, you may need to first start on a steroid cream before an antifungal or even use an antibacterial cream if there is a secondary bacterial infection before starting the antifungal cream.

  • Joyce Leanse

    Is it desirable or necessary to change one’s bra every day when treating an under breast fungus? I would appreciate hearing from you. Thank you, Joyce

    P.S. You ask for “Mail” not “email” Not very clear.

    • Dr. Peter

      Hi Joyce

      Yes, definitely you should change your bra daily if not more frequently. In fact when you start treating a breast fungus, you should discard all your bras and buy new ones. Fungal spores can exist with the textile of the bra fabric for a long period and cause a recurrence of the infection.

  • JW

    Dr. Peter… You must not know how expensive bras are if you are advocating throwing them out like they were socks. Fungal spores CAN be cleaned from fabrics – treat them as if they were mold (another fungal pest). Use a bit of color safe chlorox or a mild bleach solution, wash the bras and if possible, dry in sunlight.

  • I have been to three doctors and they diagnose the fungus under my breast as seborrheic keratosis. They said I got it from my mother. She did not have this problem at all.
    Anyway it is spreading all over my body. The two dermatologist and my medical doctor say all they can do is freeze them off. Last week I had 15 frozen off.
    that left a balance of probably a hundred to be burned off later. I told the last dermatologist they come back again. He said no they do not…..new ones are coming up.
    I need you to refer me to someone that can help me and does understand that this is fungal. I live in the San Antonio area.

  • doreen

    I have this constant itch under my breasts,and the skin there has developed blisters like stretch marks and looks darker than my skin color.

  • chloe

    Can you get fungal infection in between your breast?

    • harolyn

      You sure can and man it itches. I finally got rid of it by using Monostat cream on the area after first washing it with a medicated soap or antibacterial wash.

  • eliz s.

    Having had under-breast problems for years, I found remarkable relief by wearing a BreastComfort Sling – an extremely soft cushion with wicking fabric which elevates the breast to keep the irritated skin from reinfecting itself. I wear it as often as I can, particularly when I sleep. I no longer have itching or burning beneath my breasts and I’ve been able to dispense with cortisone creams and lotions entirely. I can’t recommend it enough!

    • Dmember

      Thank you so much for mentioning the BreastComfort Sling…I’d never heard of such a thing and I know several of us this might just be perfect for. 🙂

  • Mashay

    i think i have this .. im 7 mths pregnant and had this since iv became pregnant my doc said it was just a pregnancy rash and gave me hydrocortisone cream but its gotten worse. i dont know what to do and will thia harm my baby in any way ?

    • PhaaTeam

      Hi Mashay.

      No it will not harm your baby. It is a common skin infection resulting from chaffing and breaks in the skin which becomes infected with an yeast. It is easily treated. Hydrocortisone cream will not work if it is an infection. Speak to your doctor about treatment for the condition known as submammary candidiasis. Specific antifungals will help if it is indeed a fungal infection.

  • vicky

    I have a major burning feeling between my breasts,then it blisters ,its irrating then clears up and happens again

  • DK

    I have tried many things as well as Polysporan. When I washed under my left breast it burned so bad. When I lifted it I thought it might separate from the skin. It burns really bad. Any suggestions

  • PharmD

    My doctor prescribed Nystop. It is an antifungal powder. It is the best thing for this. It not only helps the itch but also fights the fungus. I load down the area and pour extra in the bottom of my bras BID. Also do not wear a bra after 1 use. But you may wash in hot water with bleach.

  • Melissa Pitts

    Can you get something like this on your ankle

  • Girliegirl2012

    I have used Nyostatin cream occasionally. It doesn’t take long for it to clear up, actually pretty quickly. Then I keep dry corn starch under my breast. It keeps breasts dry and keeps them healthy. I find corn starch works better than baby powder.