Hyperprolactinemia is a disorder in which the pituitary gland produces excessive amounts of the hormone prolactin, which stimulates milk production. Even when a person isn’t pregnant, a small amount of prolactin circulates in the blood. For people who are pregnant or just had a baby, a large amount of prolactin is found in the bloodstream.
Indicators of hyperprolactinemia
Hyperprolactinemia can cause irregular or no ovulation, resulting in infertility. People who have this disorder often have irregular periods, and may also experience galactorrhea, which is milk production when not pregnant.
One of the most common causes of hyperprolactinemia is a benign tumor growing on the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain near the vision center. Other causes of excessive prolactin production may be an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), or certain medications you may be taking. Sometimes the cause is unknown.
Diagnostic testing for hyperprolactinemia
Your medical history and a physical exam are helpful in diagnosing hyperprolactinemia. Listed below are tests your physician may also use to confirm the diagnosis:
Treatment for hyperprolactinemia
Your treatment will depend on the cause of your excessive prolactin production. Once your prolactin blood level is within the normal range, your periods should become more regular and you should start ovulating normally again.
If your physician establishes a diagnosis of an underactive thyroid, he or she can prescribe 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. 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.