Galactorrhea may be a mouthful to pronounce but it’s a condition that everyone needs to hear about. It is a disorder whereby the nipples secrete milk or a whitish,milk-like substance from the breasts. The strange part about it is the fact that it may affect women who have not gotten pregnant or given birth before. This means that galactorrhea is characterized by a milky discharge from the breast in people who are neither breastfeeding nor pregnant. It can also occur in women who have stopped breastfeeding for over six months but still experience the milky discharge from their breasts.
This milky secretion can happen on its own, that is, spontaneously or when the breast is pressed. It can also affect both breasts or just one breast and it may happen only for a while or continue for a long time.
What Causes Galactorrhea?
It can be caused by a variety of factors:
- Hyperprolactinemia: Prolactin is a hormone that helps to develop breast tissue and supervises milk production and lactation amongst other functions. Prolactin is majorly secreted by the pituitary gland. Hyperprolactinemia occurs when there are higher-than-normal levels of prolactin in the blood. One of the most common causes of Hyperprolactinemia is a prolactinoma, a non-cancerous tumor that forms in the pituitary gland.
- Hormonal fluctuations in puberty and menopause can cause galactorrhea.
- Constant nipple stimulation associated with sexual activity or self-breast examination can also be a cause.
- Certain medications like those used to treat schizophrenia, a mental disorder, can also cause it. Some oral contraceptives have also been implicated as a possible cause.
- It may also be caused by other conditions such as thyroid disorders, chronic kidney failure, and hypothalamic lesions.
- Idiopathic galactorrhea occurs when there is no identified cause even after the appropriate physical and laboratory examinations have been done.
- Trauma or injury to the spinal cord and injury to the chest wall have been associated with an increase in prolactin which can lead to galactorrhea.
- Some herbal supplements like fennel or fenugreek may also cause it.
Who is affected by Galactorrhea?
It is a relatively common condition. Studies have shown that about 20-25% of women will experience galactorrhea in their lifetime. Surprisingly, it can also affect men, children, and newborn babies.
What are the symptoms of galactorrhea?
The hallmark of this condition is the persistent discharge of milky or whitish substance from the breast which may occur on its own or only when the nipple is expressed. It is usually painless.
Other associated symptoms are :
- Irregular or absent menstrual periods.
- Headaches or problems with the vision.
- Loss of appetite.
- Excessive urination.
- Vaginal dryness.
- Erectile dysfunction.
The type of symptoms that occur alongside galactorrhea may be a good pointer as to its root cause.
Is Galactorrhea life-threatening?
Galactorrhea is generally not a life-threatening condition but proper investigation should be done to ascertain the underlying cause. If you’re experiencing this, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Can Galactorrhea be treated?
Yes, it can. It is important to note that treatment depends on the cause of the condition. This means that it may not stop until the underlying cause is treated.
Placing absorbent pads in the bra can help to prevent staining of the bra or clothes.
Sometimes, it may stop by itself.
Do you have any other questions or inquiries? Feel free to drop a comment and I promise to reply!
Click here to find out about types of breast lumps and which ones should be a source of concern.
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