All You Need To Know About Galactorrhea

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Do you have milky discharge from your breasts though you have never had any children or are not currently breastfeeding? Or, as a woman who has undergone menopause, do you also experienced milky discharge from your breasts? If your answers to any of these questions are yes, then you may have Galactorrhea.

What is Galactorrhea?

Galactorrhea is a milky nipple discharge unrelated to the normal milk production of breast-feeding. It usually occurs in women, even those who have never had children or after menopause.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms associated with Galactorrhea include:

  • Persistent or intermittent milky nipple discharge, involving multiple milk ducts
  • Spontaneously leaked or manually expressed nipple discharge
  • One or both breasts affected
  • Absent or irregular menstrual periods
  • Headaches or vision problems

 When to see a doctor

If you have a persistent, spontaneous milky nipple discharge from one or both of your breasts and you’re not pregnant or breast-feeding, make an appointment to see your doctor.

If breast stimulation — such as excessive nipple manipulation during sexual activity — triggers nipple discharge from multiple ducts, also see a doctor for evaluation.

Non-milky nipple discharge — particularly bloody, yellow or clear spontaneous discharge that comes from one duct or is associated with a lump you can feel — requires prompt medical attention, as it may be a sign of an underlying breast cancer.

Causes

Galactorrhea often results from too much Prolactin — the hormone responsible for milk production (lactation) when you have a baby. Prolactin is produced by your pituitary gland, a marble-sized gland at the base of your brain that secretes and regulates several hormones.

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Possible causes of Galactorrhea include:

  • Medications, such as certain sedatives, antidepressants, antipsychotics and high blood pressure drugs
  • Cocaine, marijuana or opioid use
  • Herbal supplements, such as fennel, anise or fenugreek seed
  • Birth control pills
  • Noncancerous pituitary tumor (prolactinoma) or other disorder of the pituitary gland
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Excessive breast stimulation, which may be associated with sexual activity, frequent breast self-exams with nipple manipulation or prolonged clothing friction
  • Nerve damage to the chest wall from chest surgery, burns or other chest injuries
  • Spinal cord surgery, injury or tumors
  • Idiopathic Galactorrhea (This means that your breast tissue is particularly sensitive to the milk-producing hormone prolactin in your blood.)

Diagnosis

Testing may involve:

  • A pregnancy test,to exclude pregnancy as a possible cause of nipple discharge.
  • A physical exam,during which your doctor may try to express some of the fluid from your nipple by gently examining the area around your nipple. Your doctor may also check 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.
  • 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 brainto check for a tumour or other abnormality of your pituitary gland, if your blood test reveals an elevated prolactin level.

Treatment

  • If the cause is medication use, then the doctor will advise you to stop taking medication and switch you to another medication.
  • If the cause is an underactive thyroid gland (Hypothyroidism), the doctor will prescribe a medication to counter insufficient hormone production by thyroid gland.
  • If the cause is Pituary Tumour (Prolactinoma), the doctor will prescribe medication to shrink the tumour or recommend surgery to remove the tumour.
  • If the cause is unknown, the doctor may prescribe medication to lower prolactin levels.

Source: www.mayoclinic.org

 

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