Galactorrea, what are its symptoms and their causes?

Galactorrhea is a milk discharge from the nipple that is not related to breastfeeding. It can occur in both men and women, although it tends to affect women more. By itself, it is not a disease, but it is usually related to an undiagnosed problem.

As usual, It is produced by an increase in prolactin levels, which is the hormone that stimulates the production of milk. The main causes of this increase are certain medications or a tumor in the pituitary gland, which is the part of the brain that controls the formation of prolactin.

Galactorrhea can be very uncomfortable for the sufferer. In addition to causing the unexpected appearance of milk through the nipple, it is associated with sterility. Thus, It is important to know its causes and symptoms, in order to avoid major problems. In this article we explain it to you.

What are the causes of galactorrhea?

Galactorrhea, as we have mentioned, is produced by having too much prolactin. Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates the production of breast milk. It usually rises during pregnancy, to be able to feed the baby after birth.

It occurs in the pituitary gland, which is a gland in the brain that controls several hormones. Thus, any alteration of the pituitary, such as a tumor, whether benign or malignant, can cause galactorrhea. In addition, there are other situations that can cause it:

  • Some medications, such as certain antidepressants and antipsychotics. Galactorrhea can also occur if you consume opioids.
  • The contraceptive pills.
  • Interestingly, a excessive stimulation of the chest it can provoke it, even if it is in a sexual context.
  • The hypothyroidism or a kidney disease.
  • A nerve injury derived from a breast or thorax operation.
  • Stress.
  • Certain lung cancers that produce prolactin.

Contraceptive pills

But nevertheless, sometimes, the cause of galactorrhea can not be identified. When this occurs, it is called idiopathic galactorrhea. It is associated with situations in which the breasts are especially sensitive to prolactin.

When it occurs in men, galactorrhea It may be due to a lack of testosterone. It is accompanied by an increase in breast size and sensitivity. In fact, that same lack of testosterone can cause the man to lose sexual interest.

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What are the symptoms of galactorrhea?

Galactorrhea itself is a symptom, not a disease. However, as we have mentioned before, usually due to a tumor located in the pituitary gland. It is for this reason that it can be accompanied by other symptoms or signs, which help to guide the diagnosis.

Prolactinoma is the tumor of the pituitary gland that causes the increase of prolactin. Occasionally, it may present only with galactorrhea.

Some women can stop menstruating or have less frequent periods. In fact, these women usually have a lower level of estrogen, which can be related to vaginal dryness, among other things. Therefore, sexual relations can be annoying.

In the case of men, a prolactinoma can cause a decrease in sexual interest. They may even suffer from erectile dysfunction. They also experience galactorrhea and gynecomastia, which is the medical term to refer to the increase in breast size.

When the tumor is very large, it can compress the optic nerves, which are located near the pituitary gland. This causes alterations in vision and even blindness. It is also usually accompanied by a headache.

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How is it diagnosed?

It is usually suspected the existence of a prolactinoma when the woman presents galactorrhea and alterations in the period. In the case of men, it is suspected with galactorrhea and a decrease in libido.

To confirm the diagnosis, you can measure the concentration of prolactin in the blood. You can even do complementary imaging tests, such as a CT scan or an MRI. These tests allow locating the tumor, if it exists.

In conclusion

Galactorrhea itself is only a symptom that may be related to other pathologies. The main cause is prolactinoma, a tumor located in the pituitary gland.

Thus, It is important to see a doctor if you notice any unusual discharge for one or both nipples. He will perform the pertinent tests to rule out any disease or complication.