'Tis the season for the itchy left breast mystery
December 1, 2016 10:33 AM   Subscribe

Every winter, I get a small patch of dry, itchy skin on my breast. It's always in the same place. What could be causing it?

Since this is anonymous I'll give you every detail that might be relevant:

I am a cis woman in my mid-30s. My breasts are "average" sized (e.g. I can easily find my bra size at any store), and the right one is very slightly larger than the left. They're fairly wide-set and don't touch each other without serious push-up bra help, so I don't get cleavage-related issues like interboob sweat. I am currently about 30 pounds overweight, but this has happened at lower weights. I've had one pregnancy/child and breastfed for about a year with no major problems, but this has been going on before and since. I take an antidepressant, high blood pressure medication, and progestin-only birth control. I have no other major health issues that I know of; I'm allergic to penicillin but have no known food/contact allergies. I am white with pale skin that flushes and sunburns easily, and one of my relatives had melanoma. No family history of breast issues. I live in a climate with warm, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. I shower and wash my clothes regularly.

The spot in question is about half an inch in diameter. It's always on my left breast, about an inch or two above my nipple/areola and towards the middle of my chest. It's either fully or partially covered by a bra, depending on the style I wear (generally full-coverage "t-shirt bra" styles with no seams/lace/embellishment on the cups). It doesn't appear to be caused by chafing from any garments or bags I carry. There's no visible rash or irritation, though as the season progresses the area gets slightly flaky, as dry skin sometimes does. It never ever spreads, and nothing similar happens anywhere else on my body. There are no moles or spots in that area, and I can't feel anything abnormal in my breast tissue. My nipple is unaffected. The itch is very mild and not constant, and moisturizing helps.

It shows up in late fall/early winter and disappears in the spring. Since it's never been particularly bothersome, I haven't kept track of how long it's been going on. At least three years, probably five to eight, possibly ten or more.

I haven't been worried about it, I just want to know what it is (and if I should be worried). Is there some sort of obscure seasonal itchy boob disorder I don't know about? A very localized case of eczema? A tenacious but unambitious infection? Should I be worried about Paget's disease as Dr. Google suggests? If I need to see a doctor about this, should I go to my PCP or straight to a specialist, and should I treat it as a skin thing or a breast thing?

YANMD, etc.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I opened this post to say "eczema" yes. Very localised is how it rolls for some people.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:37 AM on December 1, 2016 [9 favorites]

Yep. Eczema. I get a spot on the inside of one elbow every winter.
posted by greta simone at 10:47 AM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's a skin thing, not a breast thing, and you can go to your PCP. Let them try you on the first couple of entry-level treatment creams, and if it continues to be tenacious you can go to a dermatologist.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:51 AM on December 1, 2016

If not eczema, maybe mild psoriasis. Start with your pcp and move to a derm if topicals don't help you feel better. My trigger is stress.
posted by tilde at 11:23 AM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sounds exactly like eczema. Moisturizing with Aquaphor, Vanicream, or some other emollient-type lotion will help, as will hydrocortisone cream. The 1% stuff you can get OTC will help with itching but is pretty meh for clearing it up. If you can get an Rx for 2.5% stuff from a dermatologist, that strength will help actually keep it at bay for long stretches.
posted by anderjen at 11:25 AM on December 1, 2016

+1 localized eczema. My kid has had it off and on all her life and it always develops in the same 5-6 spots.
posted by Flannery Culp at 11:26 AM on December 1, 2016

I had something similar on my hip for ages and it was eczema. In the winter, our skin gets drier, and we take longer, hotter showers that dry it out further. The prescription steroidal cream my doc gave me cleared it right up (putting it on immediately post shower and gently covering it with a thin layer of vaseline seemed to help), and using Cetaphil bodywash kept it away.
posted by quiet coyote at 12:06 PM on December 1, 2016

I have something very similar that just this morning I discovered the cause of--it's my winter robe, more specifically, where the belt of my winter robe causes pressure on my hips. Do you start wearing something in the winter that you don't other times of the year?
posted by pupsocket at 12:08 PM on December 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

I get a patch of flakey skin on one boob periodically and the dermatologist says its eczema, so nthing ecema.
posted by TwoStride at 12:08 PM on December 1, 2016

Hi there, midwife/NP here (IANYMNP/TINMA/etc.) I'd doubt it's Paget's because Paget's usually involves the actual nipple and areola, and you say your red spot is a couple of inches above of the areolar border. It does sound like a dermatitis-y thing, though, and if moisturizing helps, that's a reassuring sign.

That said, breast cancer screening guidelines are a topic of hot debate. If you have any cancer risks (family history of breast cancer, prior history, history of estrogen intake, etc) it might be worth having someone take a look at it. I'd start with your PCP and let them decide whether you need a derm or breast referral.

TL; DR: Probably fine, unlikely to be Paget's, but probably worth having someone just peek at it to set your mind at rest. None of us internet strangers can really be sure!
posted by stillmoving at 12:36 PM on December 1, 2016

If it is bothersome (and it is eczema) and you don't have anything on hand purpose-made for it, the more waxy sorts of unscented lip balms work well in a pinch.
posted by kmennie at 1:32 PM on December 1, 2016

This is almost certainly eczema, but FYI my persistently itchy spot in a similar location turned out to be squamous cell skin cancer, so please do consult a doctor. Seriously, itchiness and a little flakiness were the only symptoms.
posted by Andrhia at 2:00 PM on December 1, 2016

Yeah, oops -- in re Andrhia's comment, I had a few 'this is always flaky' spots that were not eczema but pre-cancerous lesions, and which got frozen off. So, do get it checked out just for peace of mind. The eczema spots and the now-frozen-off spots were kinda similar. (Removal was not a big deal and they haven't returned -- don't panic!)
posted by kmennie at 2:06 PM on December 1, 2016

Likely eczema, I have it in my ear (:cry:) and elbows in the winter.
posted by so fucking future at 2:17 PM on December 1, 2016

Adding to the MeFi collection of localized eczema patches, for at least 30 years I've been slowly driven mad by one teensy spot on the tip of my left shoulder blade, JUST out of reach. It likes to wait until I'm completely bundled up in sweater, scarf, and giant North Face parka and trapped by my seat belt to act up.
posted by HotToddy at 3:27 PM on December 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

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