What is Galactorrhea?
Galactorrhea is considered to be a milky nipple discharge and it is in no way connected with the normal production of milk during breastfeeding. In itself, galactorrhea is not at all a disease. It could, however, be a sign of underlying illness. Galactorrhea usually takes place in women and it can also occur after menopause and also in those who have never had children. It can also occur in men as well as in infants.
Causes of Galactorrhea
A galactocele which is like a cyst which can be seen under the darkened area around the nipple can cause galactorrhea. The following can be the other causes of galactorrhea:
- Certain drugs like high blood pressure medications, antidepressants tranquilizers, and disorders or tumors of the pituitary gland can cause galactorrhea.
- Chronic kidney disease.
- Galactorrhea takes place when your body produces too much prolactin.
- Herbal supplements which contain fennel or fenugreek seeds, etc, may also cause galactorrhea.
- Hypothyroidism and other medical conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, and cushing's disease of the adrenal gland.
- It can also be a symptom of another condition. It can be a result of pituitary illness, including benign pituitary tumor.
- Spinal cord surgery , injury or tumor.
- There are certain brain diseases, such as meningitis.
- When there is lots of estrogen in your body when you have too much of birth control pills.
How does Hypothyroidism lead to Hyperprolactinemia?
Since Hypothyroidism is able to disturb the entire organ systems of the body, it can result in a mixed manifestation. It can lead to hyperprolactinemia because of the pituitary thyrotroph hyperplasia. The primary hypothyroidism can result on hyperprolactinemia
Can Birth Control Pills Cause You to Lactate?
Yes, the birth control pills can cause hormonal changes that result in milky nipple discharge.
What Would Cause a Man to Lactate?
Not like the female nipples, the male nipples appear to be purely decorative. However, in certain circumstances, they can lactate.
Symptoms of Galactorrhea
Signs and symptoms that are linked with galactorrhea include:
- Constant or recurrent milky nipple discharge is the primary symptom of galactorrhea.
- Headaches or vision problems
- Irregular or absent menstrual periods
- Nipple discharge that takes place in multiple milk ducts
- One or both breasts affected
- Unconsciously leaked or manually expressed nipple discharge.
What are the Symptoms of a Prolactinoma?
- Galactorrhea hypothyroidism.
- Galactorrhea in pregnancy.
- Galactorrhea with normal prolactin.
Tests to Diagnose Galactorrhea
The health care provider in your area will ask questions about your medical history and your menstrual cycle. They will also ask you if you have had problems with headaches, infertility and even with vision changes. The health care provider will also ask about current medication.
The health care provider will also perform a blood test so that they can look for the amount of prolactin in your system. If your prolactin level is on the higher side your doctor might also check your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level.
They may also go in for a pregnancy exam, to confirm and even to exclude pregnancy as a possible cause of the nipple discharge.
They may go in for a physical exam of the breasts so as to squeeze out the nipple discharge for evaluation.
Your health care provider will also go in for an ultrasound or a Mammography test and even both, to generate pictures of your breast tissue, if your doctor finds some other suspicious breast tissue or a lump in the breast during your physical exam and to evaluate the area behind the nipple.
How is Galactorrhea Treated?
Depending on the cause of galactorrhea, the treatment can vary accordingly. Steroid creams or anti-fungal creams, as well as antibiotic creams, can be prescribed to you so as to treat the changes around the nipple area. It may also be possible that your breast ducts may be removed, medications may be changed or treatment can be given for the underlying conditions like breast infection or hypothyroidism and abnormal finding on a mammogram will be removed. If you experience any nipple discharge, you are advised to visit the doctor and get a check-up done.
If there is no cause detected in your diagnostic tests for galactorrhea, you may not need any treatment. You may be advised to avoid nipple stimulation for a period of time may be recommended. Your health care provider may even prescribe bromocriptine, which can treat successfully galactorrhea provided that the cause is unknown. If you do not experience any periods, bromocriptine may cause your periods to start again and may increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
Prevention of Galactorrhea
To decrease the risk of galactorrhea:
- You should also not go in for frequent breast self-exam; you can do this one time a month which is enough.
- You should also not use illicit drugs.
- You should not undergo exaggerated sexual stimulation of the breasts.
- You should not wear clothing that irritates the breasts to prevent galactorrhea.
Risk Factors for Galactorrhea
We can define a risk factor to be something which is able to enhance your chances of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for galactorrhea include:
- Frequent (daily) breast self-exam or frequent breast stimulation
- Sex: Female
- Tight-fitting bra.
- Wearing clothing that irritates the nipple, such as wool.
Complications of Galactorrhea
Complications may take place when you use certain medications or curing galactorrhea may produce side effects, such as:
Prognosis/Outlook for Galactorrhea
In patients that have prolactinomas, the prognosis or outlook is usually excellent. There are certain prolactinomas which either regress or remain stable. These tumors in pregnant women should be observed closely as they may increase significantly in size. Even after treatment, the tumors can recur.
Lifestyle Changes for Galactorrhea
There are times when the milky discharge which is linked with idiopathic galactorrhea will disappear on its own and that too if you are able to avoid medications that are known to cause nipple discharge or breast stimulation. To reduce breast stimulation:
- During sexual activity, you should not stimulate your nipples.
- You should not manipulate your nipples and you should not perform incessant breast self-exams.
- You should wear those clothes which are able to curtail the friction between the fabric and your nipples.
Home Remedies for Galactorrhea
You should reduce the intake of oral contraceptives and birth control pills as they have lots of complication; you should utilize other means of protection such as condoms.
During sexual activity, the sucking, squeezing and stimulation of the nipple by your partner will send impulses to the brain, milky discharge from the nipples and increased prolactin secretion results.
Coping with Galactorrhea
If you are taking bromocriptine, it becomes necessary for you to ensure that you take it exactly as your health care provider has instructed you. If a cause cannot be found for your galactorrhea and if it is, a bra which is well-fitted will help to stop the discharge as it helps to prevent the stimulation of your nipples.
Recovery Period/Healing Time for Galactorrhea
The recovery period/healing time for galactorrhea varies on the cause of galactorrhea. When the source of your galactorrhea has been diagnosed and when it has been treated, you will no longer have the discharge. But if a pituitary tumor is the cause of your galactorrhea, you may be requiring a long-term treatment with bromocriptine or radiation because the tumor could come back.