Hyperprolactinemia (HI-per-pro-lak-tin-E-me-ah) is a disorder in which your pituitary gland produces excessive amounts of the hormone prolactin.
Prolactin is a hormone that stimulates milk production in women. Prolactin normally circulates in the blood in small amounts in women who are not pregnant, and in large amounts during pregnancy and right after birth. Hyperprolactinemia (excessive prolactin) can cause irregular or no ovulation, resulting in infertility. Women who have this disorder often have irregular periods, and may also experience galactorrhea (ga-LAK-to-RE-ah) - milk production when not pregnant.
One of the most common causes of hyperprolactinemia is a benign tumor growing on the pituitary gland - the gland that produces prolactin. The pituitary gland is located in the base of the brain near the vision center. Other causes of excess prolactin production may be an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), or certain medications you may be taking. Sometimes, the cause is unknown.
How Hyperprolactinemia is Diagnosed
Your medical history and a physical exam are helpful in diagnosing hyperprolactinemia. Listed below are tests that may also be used to confirm the diagnosis:
- Prolactin blood level - a blood test that measures the amount of prolactin in your blood
- Thyroid test - a blood test that diagnoses thyroid disorders; hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can cause hyperprolactinemia
- Computerized Tomography (CT) - a 3-dimensional scan that produces an image of the pituitary gland to detect a tumor or other abnormality
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - a scan that uses high frequency radio waves to produce an image of the pituitary gland to detect a tumor or other abnormality
Q What treatments are available?
A Your treatment will depend on the cause of your excessive prolactin production. If you are diagnosed with an underactive thyroid, your doctor can prescribe a thyroid medication for you. Once your thyroid problem is corrected, the amount of prolactin in your blood should decline to a normal level. If you have a tumor on your pituitary gland, or the cause of your hyperprolactinemia is unknown, treatment with medication can reduce your prolactin levels. Also, the medication usually causes pituitary tumors to shrink.
Q How will treatment improve my chances for pregnancy?
A Once your prolactin blood level is within the normal range, your periods should become more regular and you should start ovulating normally again.
Q Will treatment cure this disorder?
A No. Although these medications are very effective in bringing down your prolactin level to a normal range, they cannot cure the disorder. If you stop treatment, your prolactin levels are likely to increase again, and your symptoms will probably return.
Q Is it true that this disorder can increase my risk of osteoporosis and heart disease?
A Yes. Hyperprolactinemia can cause reduced estrogen production from the ovaries. Estrogen plays an important role in keeping your bones strong and dense, so a lack of estrogen can reduce your bone density and leave you at risk for osteoporosis. Estrogen also helps to protect against heart disease. Treatment to correct hyperprolactinemia can restore your estrogen levels and help protect you from osteoporosis and heart disease later in life.
For more information on Hyperprolactinemia, please call 1-888-761-1967 or schedule an appointment for an initial consultation with one of our physicians.