Reproductive Health Issues

What You Should Know About Galactorrhea

October 7, 2018

Have you noticed that a milky discharge leaking out of your nipple(s)?

If you’ve got and you aren’t nursing or pregnant you are likely pretty mad.

That is quite clear. Nipple discharge may be a indication of an underlying breast problem or other medical illness. If you are experiencing any kind of nipple discharge you need to get evaluated by your physician.

Here are some facts you need to know about galactorrhea

1) What Is Galactorrhea?

Galactorrhea is a breast discharge made up of breast milk or a milk-like material which is not associated with pregnancy or breastfeeding. This sort of nipple discharge may come from only one nipple . however, it typically comes out of the two. It may flow spontaneous or simply be detected if you pinch the area around your nipple.

Galactorrhea occurs most commonly in women aged 20-35. And it’s also more prevalent in women who have been pregnant . Although more common in ancient reproductive age girls, galactorrhea can occur in women of all ages, newborns and even in guys.

If you’re going through galactorrhea is it improbable it is a indication of breast cancer. That said it is still very important that you let your healthcare provider know about your symptoms.

2) Really, It is All in Your Head. . .Literally

Galactorrhea results in abnormally elevated prolactin levels.

Prolactin is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland found in the base of the brain. The pituitary gland is part of the neuroendocrine system that works to regulate many of your bodily functions. Prolactin is generally present in small amounts that change daily.

1 purpose of prolactin is to regulate your breast growth and development.

Prolactin is also responsible for milk production or lactation once you give birth. 

When you are not pregnant or breastfeeding, galactorrhea typically signals that you’ve got an abnormally elevated prolactin level.

Elevated prolactin levels may inhibit the discharge of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) the hormone which regulates your menstrual cycle.  It’s very common that if you have galactorrhea you may also have irregular intervals. In reality, if you’ve galactorrhea you may not be receiving your time at all, a condition called amenorrhea.

3) Medications That Can Cause Galactorrhea

Galactorrhea is very often caused by specific types of drugs that influence your body’s prolactin balance. These medications either interfere with dopamine, the hormone that inhibits prolactin release or else they directly stimulate the pituitary gland to produce prolactin. Kinds of drugs that can cause galactorrhea contain:

  • antipsychotics
  • antidepressants
  • antihypertensives
  • oral contraceptives
  • opioids

If you’re on one of those classes of medication and you develop galactorrhea it’s likely that the drug is the cause. Make sure you realize your healthcare provider to discuss this. Do not stop taking any medication without first discussing it with your healthcare provider.

Along with medication certain herbal supplements can cause galactorrhea such as

  • Fenugreek
  • fennels seeds
  • reddish clover

4) A Pituitary Tumor As the Cause of Galactorrhea

The pituitary gland is situated at the base of the brain. It is a component of your own body’s neuroendocrine system. It creates prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production in lactating women. Tumors that arise in the pituitary gland lead to elevated levels of prolactin, a state called hyperprolactinemia. Elevated levels of prolactin because of a pituitary tumor will cause galactorrhea and amenorrhea or no menstrual periods. Because of the area of the adrenal gland, even if the tumor is big enough it may also cause headaches and observable symptoms.

5) Stress Can Cause Galactorrhea

Leaking milk from your breasts is most likely one of the last things you would want to discover if you are already under a great deal of anxiety. But believe it of not chronic stress can lead to galactorrhea. Wondering just how that happens? You guessed it. Chronic stress induces changes in the human body which can result in increased levels of prolactin the lactation hormone.

6) Breast Stimulation May Cause Galactorrhea

If chromic pressure can cause increases on your prolactin levels, it isn’t difficult to picture that breast stimulation can do the same. Repetitive and extreme nipple stimulation even when you are not pregnant or breastfeeding can cause hormonal changes that result in elevated prolactin levels and galactorrhea. Let’s just say that fact could come as a big surprise!

Updated by Andrea Chisholm MD