Galactorrhea is a condition in which milk or milk-like discharge is flown spontaneously from the breast, which is not associated with pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. Galactorrhea isn't a disease in itself. However, it could point towards an underlying problem that may or may not be serious. It is usually found in women, but it can affect men, adolescents, even children. It may result from excess production of a hormone called prolactin, side effects of some medicines, or excess breast stimulation. The cause for the illness should be thoroughly searched for, as sometimes it may be caused by pituitary gland tumors. The management focuses on identifying and treating the underlying cause. Often no cause of the galactorrhea can be established, known as idiopathic galactorrhea. Sometimes no treatment is needed, and it resolves by itself.
Galactorrhea is a consequence of the hormonal problem. Prolactin is a milk-producing hormone released by the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain, which is released in higher amounts near childbirth for producing milk for the baby. This hormone production is regulated by another hormone called dopamine. Any condition that can interfere with these hormones can result in galactorrhea. Some of such conditions are;
The following factors can increase your chances of having galactorrhea;
Galactorrhea affects around 20 to 25 % of women. Hyperprolactinemia is the cause in about 75% of the patients having galactorrhea with amenorrhea, of which 30% are attributed to prolactin-secreting tumors.
Signs and symptoms associated with galactorrhea are;
Your healthcare provider will take a detailed history of your symptoms, associated conditions, pregnancy, medication use. He would then perform a physical examination with a special focus on the breasts and signs of a tumor in the brain via a thorough neurological examination. Discharge from the breasts can be expressed and sent for laboratory analysis to confirm breast milk. To confirm the diagnosis, the following tests can be performed;
Disorders related to galactorrhea include;
If you are having the symptoms of galactorrhea, be vigilant to consult your healthcare provider. They would try to find out the underlying cause to treat the condition and exclude a serious condition. Sometimes, no treatment is needed, and the condition resolves. When treatment is needed, it depends on the cause. Often treating the cause, treats galactorrhea. Stopping or changing medications that cause the condition will resolve galactorrhea as well. Similar is true for thyroid disorders. Treating them can stop galactorrhea also.
When a pituitary tumor causes galactorrhea, the treatment will depend on the nature and effects of the tumor. If it is benign, it may not need to be treated, or if it is large enough, some medicines are used to shrink its size. Rarely surgery is required.
When no underlying cause is determined, some medications can be used to control the production of prolactin. These include;
Galactorrhea is not a life-threatening condition. If the causative factors are treated, it goes away on its own. However, it may be the cause of amenorrhea, infertility, and osteoporosis if left untreated and that requires medical attention.
There is not much you can do to prevent developing galactorrhea. However, some lifestyle modifications can help to reduce the risk.