Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Galactorrhea is a milky nipple discharge unrelated to the normal milk production of breast-feeding. Galactorrhea itself isn't a disease, but it's a sign of an underlying problem. Although it occurs most often in women, galactorrhea can happen in men and even sometimes in infants.
Sometimes, the cause of galactorrhea can't be determined, and the condition goes away on its own.
Galactorrhea often results from too much prolactin — the hormone responsible for milk production (lactation) when you have a baby. Prolactin is produced by your pituitary gland, a marble-sized gland at the base of your brain that secretes and regulates several hormones.
Possible causes of galactorrhea include:
* Medications, such as certain tranquilizers, antidepressants and high blood pressure drugs
* Herbal supplements, such as fennel, anise or fenugreek seed
* Birth control pills
* A noncancerous pituitary tumor (prolactinoma) or other disorder of the pituitary gland
* An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
* Chronic kidney disease
* Excessive breast stimulation, which may be associated with sexual activity, frequent breast self-exams, a skin rash on the chest or prolonged clothing friction
* Nerve damage to the chest wall from chest surgery, burns or other chest injuries
* Spinal cord surgery, injury or tumors
Sometimes doctors can't find a cause for galactorrhea. This is called idiopathic galactorrhea, and it may just mean that your breast tissue is particularly sensitive to the milk-producing hormone prolactin in your blood. If you have increased sensitivity to prolactin, even normal prolactin levels can lead to galactorrhea.