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Breast Discharge – What Does it Mean?

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Breast discharge is defined by Mayo Clinic as a milky discharge unrelated to the normal milk produced as when breastfeeding. The medical term for this condition is galactorrhea. Scientists do not think of galactorrhea as a disease but as a symptom of one. Whether there is an underlying problem or not, any time you have breast leakage, it is always advisable to seek medical attention.

Symptoms and Causes

Galactorrhea signs may include the following:

o White, yellow or green nipple discharge with no trace of blood

o Spontaneously leaked or manually expressed nipple discharge
o Persistent or intermittent nipple discharge
o One or both breasts affected
o Absent or irregular menstrual periods
o Headaches or vision problems

But what causes it? According to the Mayo Clinic, any of the following may be the culprit:

o Medications, such as certain tranquilizers, antidepressants and high blood pressure drugs
o Herbal supplements, such as fennel, anise or fenugreek seed
o Birth control pills
o A noncancerous pituitary tumor or other pituitary gland disorders
o An underactive thyroid
o Chronic kidney disease
o Excessive breast stimulation, frequent breast self-examinations
o Prolonged clothing friction
o Nerve damage to the chest wall from chest surgery, burns, etc.
o Spinal cord injury

Diagnosis and Treatment

After you have made an appointment with your physician, because the real problem behind breast discharges can be so wide and varied, there may be a series of tests done. For example, a physical exam will naturally be done so your doctor can see any discharge, lumps or thickened tissue. There will be an analysis of the discharge fluid – to check for blood. There even may be a pregnancy test done to exclude or confirm pregnancy, which would explain any breast discharge. Other tests include a blood test, mammogram or MRI.

As for treatment, it definitely depends on the cause of galactorrhea. For instance, if a certain medication is causing this condition, recommendation will be to stop taking this medication or to switch it out with an alternative.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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