Have you noticed an unusual milky discharge from your breast even though you are not pregnant? This may be an indication of high prolactin levels or hyperprolactinemia.
Have no clue what this condition entails, don’t worry. We will introduce you to this condition and answer all of your what, why, and how questions in detail.
However, before we dive into the specifics of hyperprolactinemia, you must understand what prolactin is.
What Is Prolactin?
Prolactin (PRL) is a hormone released by the anterior pituitary gland - a pea-shaped tiny organ found at the base of the brain.1 It plays an important role in the development of the mammary gland and breast tissues. In addition, prolactin is primarily responsible for lactation or the production of milk during pregnancy and post-delivery of the child.1
While it is normal for pregnant women and new mothers to have a high level of prolactin in their blood, the levels are usually low for nonpregnant women.1 In general, it has varied functions in the body like immunoregulation, osmoregulation, regulating metabolism, and behavioural functions.2
The normal prolactin values for nonpregnant women range between 3 to 27 nanograms per millilitre (ng/mL). If your test results indicate abnormal levels of prolactin, you should consult your doctor and check if you have hyperprolactinemia.
What Is Hyperprolactinemia?
Hyperprolactinemia is a medical condition in nonpregnant women wherein their blood has a high level of prolactin hormone. This treatable condition most commonly affects women below the age of 40 and is known to affect less than 1% of the general population.
High levels of PRL in the blood hinder the production of other hormones like oestrogen, and progesterone which can change or stop the release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation) in females.3
Common Causes Of Hyperprolactinemia
Some of the most common causes of hyperprolactinemia include:3
- Excessive physiological or physical stress
- Nipple stimulation
- Prolactinoma (a benign tumour in the pituitary gland)
- Hypothyroidism (when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone)
- Chest wall injuries like fractures in the ribs, sternum, or bruising on the lungs 4
- Certain drugs like antidepressants, antipsychotics, or antihypertensives
Symptoms Of Hyperprolactinemia
The following symptoms are observed in female patients:4
- Irregular or no periods (amenorrhea)
- Vaginal dryness that causes painful intercourse
- Breast tenderness5
- Galactorrhea (milky discharge from breast tissues when not pregnant or breastfeeding)
How Can Hyperprolactinemia Be Diagnosed?
Dedicated blood tests can help detect hyperprolactinemia if you or your doctor notice any of the symptoms mentioned earlier. Based on the reports, the doctors may suggest a repeat test or order an MRI to reach the final diagnosis.6
What Are The Treatment Options?
This condition is treatable. Furthermore, the mode of treatment depends on the root cause. Cases where the prolactin levels are high but the patients who are asymptomatic do not require any specific treatment.7
However, prolactinomas (benign pituitary tumours) are responsible for over 50% of hyperprolactinemia cases.8 These can be treated through medications, surgery, or radiation therapy depending on the severity of the case. If hyperprolactinemia is caused by hypothyroidism, the doctors can treat it with synthetic thyroid hormone to bring your prolactin levels within the normal range.7
Fortunately, hyperprolactinemia is not a life-threatening condition. However, it can have some repercussions like infertility or irregular periods. This can severely diminish the quality of your life. Hence, if you experience any symptoms, get in touch with your doctor and get tested with LifeCell’s OvaScore test. The test analyses prolactin levels along with 8 other female reproductive hormones. This allows you to seek appropriate treatment and balance the prolactin levels and any other hormonal imbalance in your body promptly.