High Prolactin Levels
Prolactin is a hormone produced in pituitary gland. This gland is located in the head. Hyperproduction of prolactin can be caused by increased function of the very gland or by tumor which can affect pituitary gland.
Symptoms of High Prolactin Levels
If level of prolactin is increased it interferes in normal function of the ovaries in women, and in men it affects function of the testicles.
In premenopausal women hyperprolactinemia causes reduction in synthesis of estradiol. Estradiol is the leading type of estrogen. Symptoms of hyperprolactinemia include irregularities in menstrual cycle or complete absence of menstrual bleeding, infertility and symptoms of menopause. Apart from the previously mentioned typical sign of hyperprolactinemia is milk discharge from the breasts. If left untreated hyperprolactimenia may eventually cause osteoporosis.
In men hyperprolactinemia interferes in proper synthesis of testosterone. The amount of sperm decreases. Low level of testosterone leads to lack of energy, reduced libido and problems with erection, reduction in muscle mass and strength and it can also affect blood count. Prolonged hyperprolactinemia may also cause osteoporosis in men if not treated timely. Men who are suffering from increased level of prolactin commonly have enlarged and tender breasts.
Causes of High Prolactin Levels
Hyperprolactinemia or increased levels of prolactin can be caused by numerous factors. Some of them are normal while others are pathologic. They include pregnancy and breastfeeding, prolactinomas and other pituitary tumors, certain medications, hypothyroidism and breast stimulation.
Prolactin is normally produced during pregnancy and it induces secretion of milk. After the baby is born the level of the hormone is maintained only if the mother is breastfeeding. If the baby is on formula the level of prolactin drops.
A prolactinoma is a benign tumor of pituitary gland. It produces prolactin and is one of the leading causes of high prolactin levels. Apart from the symptoms caused by hyperprolactinemia prolactinomas may also lead to certain symptoms due to compressive effects of the tumor such as impaired vision, and headache. Hyperprolactinemia may be also caused by other tumors of the pituitary gland.
Certain medications are another cause of high level of prolactin. These medications block the effects of dopamine, neurotransmitter which is in charge with suppression of prolactin secretions. The usage of these medications commonly causes increased production of prolactin and consequent symptoms. Some of the medications which may cause hyperprolactinemia include methyldopa, reserpine, trifluoperazine, and haloperidol.
High levels of prolactin can accompany hypothyroidism.
And finally, hyperprolactinemia is typical for breast stimulation.
If the patient notices some of the mentioned symptoms he/she is due to report them to the doctor. The doctor will then examine the patient and perform certain tests and measure the level of prolactin. After the actual cause has been established the doctor will prescribe suitable medications and suggest most convenient treatment modality.