All you need to know about galactorrhea

Galactorrhea is when a woman or man starts lactating without being pregnant. This discharge is not the same as the milk during breastfeeding.

The pituitary gland, which is a small gland at the base of the brain, makes and regulates prolactin and several other hormones. Prolactin is a hormone that causes lactation during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. People who have galactorrhea may produce too much prolactin, which causes their breasts to discharge a milky substance.

Galactorrhea
pituitary gland produces prolactin which causes lactation.

Causes of Galactorrhea

  • excessive breast and nipple stimulation
  • kidney disease
  • medications, including antipsychotics, antidepressants and some drugs for high blood pressure, cocaine, opiates, etc.
  • an underactive thyroid
  • cancer
  • nerve damage to the chest from an injury or surgery
  • some types of hormonal birth control
  • spinal cord surgery or injury
  • use of marijuana, opioids, or cocaine
  • some herbal supplements, including fenugreek, anise, or fennel
  • testosterone deficiency in men
  • high levels of  estrogen in newborns
  • In rare cases, people may lactate due to an emotional response to an unrelated baby.

Signs and symptoms of galactorrhea

In women may vary depending on the underlying cause, but they include:

  • persistent or sporadic milky discharge from the nipple on one or both breasts
  • leaking from the nipples, either spontaneously or due to manual stimulation
  • irregular periods
  • headaches or visual disturbances

Men with galactorrhea may also experience:

  • enlarged breast area around the nipples
  • tenderness in the breast area
  • erectile dysfunction
  • loss of sexual desire

Diagnosis of Galactorrhea

  • A physical exam: your doctor may try to express some of the fluid from your nipple and checking for breast lumps or other suspicious areas of thickened breast tissue.
  • Analysis of fluid discharged from the nipple: to see if fat droplets are present in the fluid, which can help confirm the diagnosis of galactorrhea.
  • A blood test: to check the level of prolactin in your system. If your prolactin level is elevated, your doctor will most likely check your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level, too.
  • A pregnancy test, to exclude pregnancy as a possible cause of nipple discharge.
  • Mammography, ultrasound or both, to obtain images of your breast tissue if your doctor finds a breast lump or observes other suspicious breast or nipple changes during your physical exam.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, to check for a tumor or other abnormality of your pituitary gland if your blood test reveals an elevated prolactin level.

Treating Galactorrhea

Treatment of  galactorrhea tackles the underlying causes which includes:

  • Medication use: your doctor will stop you from taking the medication, change dose or switch to another medication.
  • Pituitary tumor (prolactinoma): if this is the cause of milk-ish discharge from your nipples, then your doctor will use a medication to shrink the tumor or remove it surgically.
  • Underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism): medication to counter insufficient hormone production by your thyroid gland (thyroid replacement therapy) will be prescribed by your doctor.
  • Unknown cause: medications will be prescribed to lower your prolactin level and minimize or stop milky nipple discharge.

Sometimes galactorrhea goes away on its own, particularly if you can avoid breast stimulation during sex, touching your nipples or wearing tight fitting clothes.

Galactorrhea can happen to anyone regardless of your gender, at any age, even babies can suffer from this condition. It is not a disease but a sign of other things going wrong in your body, we have always talked about how important it is to run a routine medical check at least once a year. It will help you take better care of your body. You can use the Consult a Doctor platform if you want to get in touch with a professional.

 

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