One of the main characteristics of humans as mammal animals is the development of the mammal glands, whose only function is to provide food for the young; hence, at least in the human species, babies are also called infants.

However, a series of alterations in the production of the hormones responsible for the segregation of milk can cause a phenomenon known as galactorrhea , which usually occurs in women but can also occur in men.

Definition of galactorrhea

Galactorrhea refers to the secretion of milk through the mammary gland after the postpartum period , i.e. six to eight weeks after delivery. In addition, it must remain for at least six months. However, it is true that in certain women who have gone through several births, this phenomenon can occur without it meaning that there is an underlying disease.

Galactorrhea cannot be considered a disease as such, but rather a sign that the person may be suffering from some other condition, with discharge usually occurring through both breasts.

This phenomenon occurs particularly in women between 20 and 35 years of age with previous pregnancies . However, there are cases of galactorrhea present in other ages, in children and even in men.

As a rule, between 20% and 25% of women with normal menstrual cycles and hormone levels experience galactorrhea at some point in their lives.

Symptoms of galactorrhea

Although galactorrhea is considered a sign within a larger disorder, it may be accompanied by other associated symptoms. These symptoms can be very varied in terms of type, frequency of occurrence, etc, depending on the causes of galactorrhea itself.

The most common signs of symptoms are:

  • Variations during menstruation : irregular cycles or lack of menstrual cycle
  • Sensitivity to temperature changes
  • Increased thirst and urge to urinate
  • Headaches
  • Vision problems such as inaccurate or blurred vision, double vision, or lack of vision
  • Erection problems , erectile dysfunction and lack of sexual desire in men
  • Acne and body hair


Apart from pathological circumstances, the manufacture of milk in the breasts is caused by several hormones and of these prolactin is the one that plays the most relevant role . This hormone is formed in a gland called the pituitary, which is located at the base of the skull. In addition, the action of another hormone called placental lactogen is also involved.

Galactorrhea is caused by an imbalance in the production of these two hormones. This alteration can have numerous causes, although the truth is that in half of the cases the cause remains undetermined. The most common reasons for the appearance of this phenomenon are

  • Appearance of tumors in the pituitary gland .
  • Side effect of the consumption of some drugs. These drugs usually belong to the groups of antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihypertensives, opiate drugs, antivomiting and anovulatory drugs.
  • Endocrine conditions that alter hormone production, such as primary hypothyroidism
  • Excessive nipple stimulation.
  • Physical and psychological stress .
  • Chronic kidney disease.
  • Liver cirrhosis.
  • Local infections in the breast .
  • Hypothalamic alterations that alter the correct regulation of hormone release.
  • Thoracic injuries or surgeries .
  • .

  • Other conditions such as polycystic ovaries, hyperthyroidism, spinal cord injuries, etc.


The first step in the diagnosis of galactorrhea is to rule out that the secretion is not other than lactic . The reason is that any other type of secretion, with traces of blood, purulent or greenish tones are signs of other important diseases such as breast cancer, so it is vitally important to go to a health centre as soon as the secretion is detected.

The correct diagnosis of galactorrhea should include taking as detailed a medical history as possible, including the patient’s menstrual history, in the case of a woman, to rule out the possibility that it is due to pregnancy. In addition, research should be done on sterility, impotence or variations in sexual appetite.

A physical examination should also be performed to look for signs of any other disease such as hypothyroidism, and a drug history should be requested to rule out this possible cause.

A blood test is then needed to check the levels of thyroid hormones and prolactin in the blood. Other tests such as urine tests or chest and abdominal films may be performed as deemed necessary by the specialist clinician.

If all of the above causes are excluded, it is most likely a prolactinoma. Prolactinoma is a benign tumour that lodges in the pituitary gland , and although it is much more likely to occur in women, when it occurs in men it does so in a more pernicious way.

If galactorrhea manifests itself along with very high concentrations of prolactin in the blood, some type of sexual dysfunction, infertility or hypogonadism, it is logical to assume that it is a prolactinoma; therefore, the specialist must perform a brain magnetic resonance to confirm the existence of a tumor.


The intervention to follow in the cases of patients who present galactorrhea will depend on the causes of this. In the case that this occurs in isolation and without high levels of prolactin in the blood, the most common is that it disappears naturally , and no treatment is necessary.

The exception would be cases where the secretion is a great nuisance, in which case the protocol calls for the administration of dopamine agonists, which increase the level of dopamine in the blood, a hormone that inhibits the formation of prolactin.

Also, when this phenomenon is associated with any other disease, the symptoms will subside when the main condition is treated. In the case of galactorrhea caused by the effects of a drug, the suppression of the drug or a reduction in the dose should be sufficient to remit the symptoms.

In people whose MRI does not detect the presence of a prolactinoma, regular check-ups are necessary to rule out the appearance and growth of a pituitary tumor.

Finally, in cases of prolactinoma, surgery is performed to remove the tumour, together with the administration of specific drugs and radiotherapy.