Galactorrhea refers to a woman who is not pregnant or breastfeeding having milk secretion from one or both breasts. This milk secretion is usually due to increased levels of prolactin, which can be the result of certain underlying factors or condition. It is a fairly common condition, with more than 200,000 new cases every year in the US alone. While most often found in women, there have been rare cases of galactorrhea found in men who have severely low testosterone levels.
Increased levels of the hormone prolactin leads to milk production and secretion in women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding. This excess of prolactin can be caused by any of the following factors or underlying conditions:
- Blood pressure drugs
- Pituitary gland tumors
- Drug use
- Birth control
- Herbal supplements
- Underactive thyroid
- Kidney disease
- Excessive breast stimulation
There is only one type of galactorrhea.
- Constant or intermittent milk discharge
- Milk leakage from one or both breasts
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Swelling of one or both breasts
- Decreased sex drive
- Vision problems
Your primary care physician can diagnose galactorrhea based on your medical history and a physical examination. They will likely have you take a pregnancy test right away to confirm that the milk production is not due to that. From there, they will perform a series of diagnostic tests such as blood tests and MRIs to determine the underlying cause.
Treating galactorrhea depends entirely on the underlying cause. If the milk production is being caused by certain medications, stopping those medications or decreasing the dose can resolve the galactorrhea. For cases that are caused by an underlying condition like underactive thyroid can be resolved by managing that condition.