Galactorrhea is a discharge of milk-like substance from the breast that is not associated with breast-feeding after pregnancy. It is often referred to as non-puerpial (not pregnancy-related) galactorrhea. This condition mainly occurs in women. It does occur in men, but much less commonly. The milky white discharge can come from one or both breasts, and the breast may leak fluid with or without stimulation.
Galactorrhea has many causes, though sometimes the cause is unknown. Tumors of the pituitary gland, called pituitary adenomas or prolactinomas, can cause galactorrhea. The pituitary is a small gland attached to the brain. Pituitary tumors are usually not cancerous. They can cause galactorrhea when they produce excess prolactin, a hormone that stimulates milk production.
In newborns, high levels of circulating hormones (estrogen) may result in enlarged breast tissue and secretion of milk.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Risk factors include:
Wearing clothing that irritates the nipple, such as:
Frequent (daily) breast self-exam or frequent breast stimulation
The primary symptom is a milky discharge from the nipple that is not associated with breast-feeding. The discharge can come from one or both breasts. Other symptoms that can occur along with the discharge include:
Abnormal or absent menstruation
Heat or cold intolerance
Disordered appetite, increase or decrease in weight
Increased thirst or urination
Loss of sex drive
Bloody or foul-smelling discharge
Acne or abnormal hair growth
Impotence (men only)
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:
A sample of the breast discharge to look at under a microscope
Blood tests to check hormone levels
Imaging tests to check for a pituitary gland tumor in the brain:
—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of the inside of the body
—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the inside of the body, which may not be sensitive enough to pick up subtle findings
If the discharge is not milky or contains blood, then this is not galactorrhea. Other tests must be done to check for
or other disorders.
Treatment depends on the cause. In some mild cases, no medical treatment is necessary, and the condition will go away on its own. In these cases, breast binders that prevent stimulation of the nipples may be effective. If medications are identified as the potential cause, safe alternatives should be sought.
If an underlying cause for galactorrhea, such as a pituitary tumor, is found, this condition may be treated.
Pituitary tumor treatment—Tumors of the pituitary gland that cause galactorrhea are usually benign. Small tumors may be treated with a medication, such as bromocriptine. Larger tumors may be treated with the following:
Surgery—surgical removal of the tumor and nearby tissues, considered when medications fail
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a