Galactorrhea

December 14, 2007

 

Galactorrhea: A Milk-Like Discharge from the Breast

 

Q & A: I'm having trouble getting pregnant and now I've noticed leaking from my breasts. What's happening?

Prolactin (PRL), the "milk let-down" hormone, is made in the pituitary gland. Either your breasts are exquisitely sensitive to normal amounts of PRL, or worse, you're making too much PRL, which can be a sign of something called a pituitary adenoma, a benign tumor of the pituitary gland. Elevated PRL can also interfere with conception and the normal menstrual cycle, so infertility is not unusual with complaints like this. Your body thinks it's breast feeding, which makes pregnancy difficult to obtain.

Are your breasts just sensitive to normal amounts of PRL, or are you making too much? This can be determined by a simple blood test. And it MUST be determined as soon as possible, because if it's the worse of the two, you don't want a pituitary adenoma getting any bigger. Even though it's a benign tumor, it sits right between the branches of the optic nerve and under the brain. Your vision may be in danger, as well as other brain structures.

The good news is that a pituitary adenoma can be treated with pills--only rarely is surgery necessary. If your PRL is normal, than never mind on all this. But if it's elevated, you need care immediately. And you won't know until you see your doctor. See your doctor!

Besides galactorrhea, a discharge from the nipple can be indicative of breast cancer, especially if it is discolored or bloody.  In these situations, a visit with a doctor is mandatory and should be as soon as possible.

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