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Also known as hyper lactation, galactorrhea is a rare condition wherein a grayish or white liquid is discharged from the breast. Galactorrhea by itself is not a disease, but it is a sign of an underlying problem

Also known as hyper lactation, galactorrhea is a rare condition wherein a grayish or white liquid is discharged from the breast. Galactorrhea is a condition wherein one breast or both the breasts secrete milky type of discharge. The breast/s could discharge with or without stimulation. It can occur in men, infants and in women but is mostly noticed in women. Women with galactorrhea produce milk even when they are not breast feeding.

Galactorrhea by itself is not a disease, but it surely is a sign of an underlying problem like hormonal imbalance, tumor, etc. Galactorrhea is also called witch's milk tumor and could be associated to a growth in the ovaries or other reproductive organs in women. In men it could relate to disorders in the testicles or related sexual organs that may stimulate the production of prolactin.

Any fluid discharge from the breast after menopausal stage in women could indicate breast cancer. However, the discharge related with breast cancer will be from one breast only. In galactorrhea, generally both breasts are involved. Presence of blood in the fluid discharged from the breast could be indicative of a benign growth in the breast tissue itself. Galactorrhea is more common in women aged between 20 and 35.

Galactorrhea cause

  • Consumption of birth control pills

  • An under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism)

  • A non-cancerous pituitary tumor or any other disorder of the pituitary gland

  • Medications like antidepressants, tranquilizers (a few), high blood pressure drugs and hormonal supplements

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • Excessive breast stimulation

  • Spinal cord surgery or tumor

  • Herbal supplements such as nettle, fennel, blessed thistle, anise and fenugreek seed

  • Drugs such as marijuana and opiates

Galactorrhea often results from too much prolactin (the hormone responsible for milk production-lactation) when you have a baby. Pituitary gland is the gland responsible for regulating the hormones.

Galactorrhea symptoms

  • Persistent or sporadic milky type of discharge, the discharge has no blood
  • Unexpected milk leak or manually expressed nipple discharge
  • One or both breasts get affected
  • Irregular menstrual periods or no menstrual periods
  • Headaches and/or vision problems
  • Acne
  • Increased hair growth on chin or chest

Idiopathic Galactorrhea: In a few cases, the doctors can't locate the exact cause for galactorrhea. This condition is called as idiopathic galactorrhea. This condition may indicate that the breast tissue is highly sensitive to the milk-producing hormone prolactin in your blood. With increased sensitivity to prolactin, even normal prolactin levels can lead to galactorrhea.

Galactorrhea in men: Testosterone deficiency (male hypogonadism) in men can lead to this condition. They have breast enlargement or tenderness (gynecomastia).

Galactorrhea in newborns: Galactorrhea can occur in newborns too. Elevated estrogen levels in the mother gets into the baby's blood. This can lead to enlargement of the baby's breast tissue, which may further produce the milky nipple discharge.

Galactorrhea diagnosis

  • Physical examination
  • Blood test
  • Pregnancy test in case of women
  • Analysis of fluid discharged from the breasts
  • Ultrasound
  • Mammography
  • MRI to check for tumor

Galactorrhea treatment

Treatment for Galactorrhea depends on the underlying cause that has been diagnosed.

  • If tumor is the underlying cause, it is treated with surgery or medications.

  • If medications are the underlying cause, the medications have to be either discontinued or altered under medical supervision.

  • If hypothyroidism is the cause, then medication to support the hormone deficiency should be taken.

  • In many cases, treatment is not required to treat galactorrhea, it settles down on its own.

Preventing Galactorrhea

Galactorrhea cannot be prevented but the following steps might help:

  • Avoid wearing tight fitting clothes or clothes that can cause friction in the breast area.

  • Avoid touching the nipples during sexual intercourse.

  • Do not do self breast examinations more than once a month

  • Avoid breast stimulation of any kind

  • If a particular drug has caused the condition, that drug may be discontinued and drugs that don't induce such condition may be used.

Bibliography / Reference:

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