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Updated on 3 November 2023
Galactorrhea is a condition related to milky discharge from nipples that happens apart from normal lactation during breastfeeding. The condition is not a disease, but it can be an indication of a disease. It usually occurs in women, especially women who have not had children or are going through menopause. The condition can also happen in men and children. Many causes lead to the development of galactorrhea in the body.
Galactorrhea is the uncontrollable release of milk from the breast at any time besides when nursing. It happens when there is high production of the prolactin hormone. This hormone is responsible for the production and release of milk from mammary glands. Sometimes, the cause of galactorrhea is unclear, and in many cases, the condition can resolve on its own.
Galactorrhea can happen due to excessive breast stimulation and also due to the side effects of medication. Galactorrhea can also happen when there is a high level of prolactin which induces the production of milk.
The main symptoms associated with galactorrhea include:
Prolonged or occasional milky discharge from the nipple - Depending on the severity of the disorder, the milky discharge may leak at regular intervals or any time when the nipples are squeezed. The condition can be seen in both males and females.
Either one or both breasts are affected, producing a milky discharge.
Irregular or absence of menstrual periods - High levels of prolactin prevent other hormones like progesterone and estrogen from being produced normally. This may alter or prevent ovulation and may cause missed or irregular menstruation.
Headaches or vision issues
Apart from these symptoms, you might also experience symptoms such as vaginal dryness and low sex drive. You might also face issues such as erectile dysfunction if you are a man and suffering from galactorrhoea. Occasionally, the appearance of acne and hair growth on your chest or chin too can be seen.
Depending on the severity of these symptoms, you should consult your doctor. Galactorrhea is usually treatable and not life-threatening. It can be easily treated with the right medication.
The most common cause of galactorrhea is a benign tumor on the pituitary gland. The tumor development can cause the excess secretion of prolactin. This causes the milk ducts to create and discharge milk. The hormone triggers your body to believe that it needs to produce and discharge milk. Other causes include:
Taking medications, including birth control pills, blood pressure medicine or antidepressants
Overstimulating your breasts in the course of sexual activity or breast self-examination
Chronic kidney disease
Herbal supplements like fenugreek or fennel seed
Using opioids stimulates your body and represses your nervous system
Injury or trauma to your spinal cord causes changes in the body, which can sometimes lead to galactorrhoea.
Galactorrhea mostly affects women in their reproductive age but can also affect men. The development of galactorrhea can be a sign of hormonal imbalance. In such cases, you should consult a gynaecologist or a sexologist. While the development of galactorrhea is not life-threatening, it can be challenging because it is embarrassing for many.
However, the good news is that the condition is treatable. As a way to control the flow of milk, you can wear breast pads to soak up the milk until you go to a doctor. Even when you talk to your doctor, remember that nothing embarrassing in talking about it all.
In many cases, it may be linked to certain psychological issues and with the right therapy and counseling, one can resolve the condition slowly. Any lump or milky discharge from the breasts, not concerned with childbirth, should be immediately consulted.
You may also like : Potential Causes of Nipple Discharge: Cancerous and Non-Cancerous
Galactorrhea is diagnosed by medical professionals by several methods such as:
A physical examination of your nipples and breasts
Review of your medical background, taking into account the drugs you use
A blood test to determine your body's prolactin levels
Thyroid function test using a blood sample
To check breast tissue, imaging procedures like a mammogram or ultrasound are used
To check for a tumor in or close to your pituitary gland, imaging procedures such as a CT scan and an MRI are used
Although galactorrhea could be unpleasant, the ailment is not life-threatening and becomes better with therapy. Galactorrhea is a common condition, so don't be reluctant to get help if you experience any symptoms.
1. Atluri S, Sarathi V, Goel A, Boppana R, Shivaprasad C. (2018). Etiological Profile of Galactorrhoea. Indian J Endocrinol Metab.
2. Sakiyama R, Quan M. (1983). Galactorrhea and hyperprolactinemia. Obstet Gynecol Surv.
Galactorrhoea: Meaning, Symptoms & Causes in Hindi, Galactorrhoea: Meaning, Symptoms & Causes in Tamil, Galactorrhoea: Meaning, Symptoms & Causes in Telugu, Galactorrhea: Meaning, Symptoms & Causes in Bengali
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