Several hormones participate in the production of milk in the breasts , the most important of all being prolactin; also known as placental lactogen, which is formed in the placenta during pregnancy. Thus, galactorrhea arises as a consequence of a dysregulation of the milk secretion of these hormones ; that is why in the vast majority of cases of galactorrhea, prolactin levels are elevated.
It is estimated that 20% of women without any health problems suffer from galactorrhea at some point in their life.
What is it?
It is known as galactorrhea to the secretion of milk from the breasts outside the lactation period. It is not a disease in itself, but is a symptom of a certain condition.
It is important to note that galactorrhea is solely milk secretion . It must be differentiated from other types of secretions, such as bloody or purulent, which can indicate breast cancer or infection respectively.
Although it can affect both men and women, galactorrhea is more common in the female audience , especially from 20 to 35 years old. Previous pregnancy is one of the main risk factors for this condition.
Galactorrhea in men
Although it is more common in women, milk secretion from the mammary glands can also affect men. The most common cause is prolactinoma, a benign tumor that affects the pituitary gland , responsible for the secretion of prolactin.
The symptoms that occur in men significantly impair their sexual life: decreased libido, impotence and galactorrhea . There are also others such as constant headache and visual impairment.
The vast majority of prolactinomas respond well to medications, so both the short-term and long-term prognosis is good .
Causes of galactorrhea
It is interesting to know what the main causes of this condition are. Around 50% of the cases are of unknown cause; As for the remaining 50%, the most common causes are the following.
A benign tumor of the prolactin-producing pituitary gland whose main symptom is precisely the secretion of milk from the mammary glands. Prolactinomas generally occur in people under 40 years of age, being more common in women than in men.
An endocrine disease such as hypothyroidism is another likely cause of galactorrhea. Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs in the thyroid gland when it is unable to produce enough thyroid hormone .
Although it is not the most common cause of all, both physical and psychological stress can increase prolactin levels in the blood.
The cirrhosis implies an irreversible liver damage, forming abnormal structures in the body. Thus, liver functions gradually fail. The prognosis of those patients affected by cirrhosis is very complicated.
In the case of women, the polycystic ovary is another probable cause of milk secretion from the mammary glands. It is a condition characterized by the fact that women do not ovulate normally , thus generating hormonal alterations.
Medicines that cause galactorrhea
One of the most common and known causes of galactorrhea is taking certain medications, which raise prolactin levels in the blood. Thus, the secretion of milk from the mammary glands is a side effect of drugs such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, antiemetics, and anovulatory drugs.
As we have pointed out, galactorrhea itself is not a disease, but rather a symptom that indicates the existence of a certain condition.
Thus, it can sometimes be accompanied by other symptoms, which are highly variable depending on the cause. Some of the most common signs are irregular menstrual periods in women, increased sensitivity to extreme temperatures, weight gain or loss, a constant feeling of thirst, and headache . Also, some men suffer from erectile dysfunction.
If you have any of these symptoms, our recommendation is that you seek medical attention as soon as possible.
It should be noted that galactorrhea is very rarely a symptom of a disease that affects the breast itself. The secretions that indicate alterations such as breast cancer or others, are bloody and purulent.
Once you go to the doctor for the secretion of milk from the mammary glands, first of all you will take a medical history based on two factors: state of health and symptoms described . You must also indicate whether or not you are taking any medication; As we have explained, certain drugs increase prolactin levels in the blood.
You will then order a blood test to measure both proactin and thyroid hormone levels . For women of childbearing age, you will also request a pregnancy test.
If your doctor rules out pregnancy, hypothyroidism, and medications as the cause of galactorrhea, it is almost certainly a prolactinoma ; the medical test to determine the presence or not of the benign tumor is the cerebral magnetic resonance imaging.
Treatment of galactorrhea
The treatment of this condition depends fundamentally on the cause. In certain cases, medical treatment is not even necessary; the secretion of milk from the mammary glands disappears by itself without causing any complications.
To treat galactorrhea, it is essential to treat the cause that has led to this condition . If you have hypothyroidism, the appropriate medical treatment is the administration of thyroid hormone. In the same way, if the milk secretion has occurred as a result of the taking of certain medications, adjusting the dose or suspending its taking is the most effective form of treatment.
If galactorrhea is a great annoyance to your daily life and is also accompanied by other symptoms that greatly impair your quality of life, it may be necessary to administer medication to control prolactin levels in the blood.
How to prevent galactorrhea?
Galactorrhea cannot be prevented 100% effectively. Some of the causes that give rise to milk secretion such as pituitary tumors, it is not possible to prevent them in any way.
However, there are some measures that are worth taking into account to minimize the risk of suffering from this condition. On the one hand, avoid those garments that irritate the nipples in any way , that is, that are excessively tight.
In addition, since stress is one of the causes of galactorrhea, it is essential to lead a lifestyle that is as relaxed as possible.
It is also advisable not to stimulate the breasts excessively , both during sexual activity and in self-examinations.
And finally, avoid those medications that increase prolactin levels in the blood.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.