Galactorrhea is the production of breast milk in women who aren’t nursing or pregnant and sometimes in men and infants. It’s rarely a stand-alone condition, but rather a symptom of an underlying or unrelated issue. It’s often caused by a gland problem or over-production of the hormone (prolactin) that plays a role in stimulating milk production following child birth.
Antidepressants, high blood pressure drugs, herbal supplements, sedatives, birth control pills, and use of certain street drugs may also result in spontaneous milk secretion. Pituitary gland issues, chronic kidney disease, and nerve damage within the chest area may also contribute to galactorrhea.
Milky discharge from nipples can happen occasionally with no regularity or occur with degree of consistency. Women with the condition may experience missed or irregular menstrual cycles. Production of milk may be spontaneous or it may be expressed.
Galactorrhea is unrelated to regular milk production that is associated with breastfeeding and childbirth.
Even after thorough testing, there is no specific cause of galactorrhea in some patients. It generally develops in women, including menopausal women and those who have never had children. It can also occur in men as well as infants and teenagers of both genders. The milky white substance may be released from both or either breasts with or without stimulation.
A blood test is usually performed to check prolactin levels and rule out any other potential causes of abnormal lactation. A mammogram allows for better examination of breast tissue, although an MRI scan may also be performed to look for the presence of a tumor. For premenopausal women, a pregnancy test may be done to rule out pregnancy as a cause.
Possibly affecting one or both breasts, galactorrhea is an often treatable condition that responds well to medications prescribed to re-balance hormone levels. More common in women, it is also prevalent in women with hyperprolactinemia, a condition resulting in over-production of a protein associated with lactation.
Galactorrhea cannot be prevented. If the intake of a certain medicine causes this condition, a patient should switch to another drug that does not cause galactorrhea as a side-effect.