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Men and women: Are you producing breast milk?

An uncommon medical condition wherein one could lactate- even though someone is not pregnant!

Written by Aishwarya Iyer |Updated : May 21, 2018 1:36 PM IST

For years, until now we felt that women who produced milk have delivered a baby. But have you heard that there is a medical condition, which is not very common that could also lead lactating- even though someone is not pregnant!

'Galactorrhoea is milky nipple discharge unrelated to normal milk production,' explains Dr Ashwini Bhalerao-Gandhi, Consultant Gynaecologist, PD Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai. The condition, can occur in those without any sexual contact, those who never had children or even after menopause. However, the condition can happen in men or infants. Some commonly known reasons could be excessive breast stimulation, thyroid, side-effects of medications or so on.
Symptoms
Galactorrhoea could have the following symptoms:
  • Nipple discharge- persistent/ intermittent/spontaneous.
  • One or both breasts could get affected.
  • Irregular periods.
  • Headaches.
  • Vision problems.

breast

Underlying causes
The condition is not very common. 'It results from increased levels of prolactin hormone which is secreted by the pituitary gland. Certain drugs like sedatives, antidepressants, anti-psychotics, antacids etc can lead to galactorrhea. Benign tumour of pituitary gland also may lead to galactorrhea.'

Thyroid is becoming increasingly common these days, hypothyroidism could also be a reason for the condition too. 'Underlying Thyroid disorders like hypothyroidism can lead to galactorrhea thus, Sr prolactin as well as Sr TSH levels should be done routinely when a woman comes with complaint of galactorrhea.'Mild galactorrhea with normal level of Sr prolactin needs only observation. If Sr TSH level is high and hypothyroidism is the cause of galactorrhea then thyroxine hormone should be given. Very high levels of Sr prolactin are suspicious of adenoma of pituitary gland which can be diagnosed on MRI brain.

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Treatment
Fluid or milky discharge coming out of nipples are indicators of hormonal imbalanceand should be rightly evaluated. 'Very rarely blood stained fluid coming out of unilateral nipple with lump in the same breast may be precancerous. Over handling of breasts can lead to galactorrhea which does not need specific treatment. Some patients panic, while others ignore. Both is not correct. Medical evaluation and necessary treatment if required are vital. '
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