Galactorrhea: What is it? Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

It is a condition in which there is a milky discharge from the nipples.

It is not the usual milk production during breastfeeding of the baby and can occur in men and even in children.

Very often this condition is seen in women, but it can sometimes develop in men.

Many people don’t know it, but men also have prolactin in their body. It is the hormone that causes milk production in the female body.

During fetal development, prolactin production is present in both sexes.

Any problem in the pituitary gland and the adverse effect of certain medications can cause this disorder.

Milk-like secretion occurs when there is an increased production of the hormone prolactin which in turn triggers the secretion of milk.

Galactorrhea comes from the “gala” of the green worlds, which means milk and “reo”, which means “escape.”

Therefore, using etymological tools, we can say that galactorrhea is basically a milk leak. It is an unwanted discharge of milk.

You have absolutely no control over your nipples or their activity in this situation. Therefore, those who suffer from it consider it more of an underlying problem than a disease.

Being affected by Galactorrhea is especially stressful for men. Many think that Galactorrhea is something that puts them in grave danger.

Despite all the medical advances, it is still unclear what causes Galactorrhea.

Experts generally consider breast stimulations, strong medications, and disorders of the pituitary gland as possible causes.

Many factors can increase prolactin production. Therefore, it is not clear why humans experience galactorrhea.

Usually the condition goes away on its own. Galactorrhea can be scary and embarrassing for some.

Causes of galactorrhea

Most often, this disorder is caused due to hormonal imbalance.

The hormone prolactin is produced in excess, triggering the secretion of milk. It is the hormone that is responsible for lactation when a woman becomes pregnant.

The pituitary gland induces the production of this hormone at regular intervals whenever there is a need to breastfeed the child.

The stress chronic emotional and prolonged use of herbal products such as nettle, fennel, blessed thistle, anise and fenugreek seed can trigger the milky secretion.

People who use birth control pills for long periods of time or who use tranquilizers or antidepressant medications for a long time may have this problem.

Hypothyroidism can trigger prolactin milk production.

People with chronic kidney problems and those with pituitary gland tumors may have galactorrhea.

In rare cases, excessive stimulation of the breasts and wearing clothes that produce friction in the breast area can cause milk discharge.

Sometimes the exact cause may not be known and the person becomes sensitive to prolactin which triggers the milky discharge.

In men, galactorrhea is seen in people with low testosterone and problems with erectile dysfunction.

Men who are addicted to illicit drugs like heroin and marijuana can also face this problem.

The flow of milk is also seen in the newborn who has a high level of estrogen through his mother.

Galactorrhea in the newborn is more common due to the high level of estrogen in the baby due to the estrogen crossing the placenta and there is an enlargement of the breast in such babies along with the milky discharge from the newborn’s nipples.

Other causes are:

  • Medicines such as metoclopramide (a dopamine receptor antagonist commonly used for vomiting).
  • Sedatives
  • Antipsychotics
  • Medications for blood pressure.


Persistent milky discharge

This particular symptom can be especially difficult for those who are outside all day.

The milky substance can soak through clothing and allow others to see what is going on.

Such an occurrence is especially embarrassing for men, as they are not expected to breastfeed.

Sporadic milky discharge

Some people consider galactorrhea just as a constant discharge of milk. However, this may not always be the case.

Cases where the patient only receives the shock occasionally are quite common.

This can be even more difficult to deal with, as you never know when the leak will occur. Rest periods can be from a few hours to a few weeks.

There are high chances that the thyroid gland is underperforming.

This organ within the neck area is responsible for the production of many hormones. A good treatment, in this case, would be levothyroxine.

This medicine counteracts insufficient hormone production.

Nipple discharge through multiple milk ducts

Generally, during pregnancy, it is common for only one milk duct to be functional.

This is a common occurrence and exists for two important reasons. First, it flows through a duct to prevent milk depletion.

Second, it works that way so the baby doesn’t overeat. During galactorrhea, multiple ducts may be in operation. This can cause excessive leakage.

Parlodel is a good medicine that regulates prolactin levels within the body.

Leak caused manually

This symptom may be considered rare, but it is one more sign of galactorrhea.

Patients often report that they receive unwanted shocks when their breasts are squeezed. The strength of the grip can vary depending on the case.

Some women may have so-called hypersensitive galactorrhea. Even the slightest touch can cause the milk to scatter.

In cases of hypersensitivity, there are often multiple tests that must be performed. Doctors want to monitor all the functioning of the breast area.

Pressure receptors and skin cells are monitored for possible problems.

An affected breast

This may seem puzzling to some, but galactorrhea doesn’t always have to include multiple breasts.

In many cases, it can be a single breast with greater discharge. There is no explanation why this happens.

Medical experts believe that it is a randomized process that is being altered by the body’s hormones.

In some cases, a single breast leak may be the sign of a small pituitary gland tumor.

This type of tumor can easily affect the way your body makes and distributes hormones.

The treatments available are aggressive drugs to shrink the tumor and invasive surgery.


Amenorrhea is the medical term used to define a complete absence of periods.

It is a rare but technically possible occurrence when you are suffering from galactorrhea.

In such cases, you may think that you are even pregnant or that other problems are wreaking havoc on your body.

In fact, it can all be related to the way the body produces hormones.

Missing periods is more than enough cause to visit the gynecologist.

When combined with the leakage of milk from the nipples, the gynecologist will be able to establish a viable diagnosis.

Treatment probably involves a drug like bromocriptine.

Irregular menstrual periods

This symptom in itself is very common in most female patients.

It can be caused by many factors, such as anemia, poor diet, excessive physical activity, and much more.

When combined with existing breastfeeding of the nipples, it is due to galactorrhea.

In some cases, this may be due to overdosing when taking medications.

This causes nipple discharge and irregular periods in about 8 out of 10 reported cases.


Sometimes galactorrhea is connected to other problems.

Another frequent symptom is the sudden onset of severe and pronounced headaches.

They can last for long periods and can even persist for several hours.

Scans of the pituitary gland usually connected the dots and attributed the headaches to galactorrhea.

To combat this, you will need some pain relievers.

Vision problems

Vision problems often go hand in hand with headaches. Hormonal imbalances are usually the common cause of these two symptoms.

They can be mild in most cases, but they can also reach critical states.

Driving or putting additional stress on the eyeballs should be avoided.

Often times, a dose of cabergoline can eliminate both nipple discharge and this symptom.


Excessive fluid loss may cause dizziness. This is due to the rapid loss of fluid through the nipples.

In rare cases, there would be a yellowish or reddish discharge from the nipples that is indicative of breast cancer.

Diagnosis of galactorrhea

The doctor will physically examine the breast to identify any lumps in the breast area.

You can also test the milky fluid to check for any traces of blood.

For many people, a blood test is done to check prolactin hormone levels and TSH level.

In rare cases, the MRI test is done to rule out any abnormal tumors in the pituitary gland.

The diagnosis of galactorrhea is not difficult and can be made by history and physical examination.

If there is milky discharge from the nipple and there are no traces of blood in the milky discharge, it can be considered galactorrhea.

However, to find out the cause of galactorrhea, several tests must be performed, such as:

  • Pregnancy test – to find out if galactorrhea is due to pregnancy.
  • Blood test : to know the level of prolactin in the blood and thyroid stimulating hormone, because excess prolactin and underactive thyroid can cause galactorrhea.
  • Milky fluid analysis – to determine if there are fat droplets in the milky discharge, which can help confirm the diagnosis.
  • Ultrasound and mammography – to check for a lump in the breast tissue.
  • MRI: If the blood test for prolactin is high, an MRI of the brain is done to determine if there are any tumors or growths in the pituitary gland.

These tests can help determine the cause of galactorrhea and the treatment modality decided on based on these tests.


Galactorrhea can be treated well if the doctor can discover the underlying cause.

If you are using powerful medications that trigger the secretion of milk, you should consult your doctor to switch to alternative medications.

If the problem is due to hypothyroidism, you should take levothyroxine to decrease the secretion of the hormone.

Whatever the cause, the doctor will need to block the levels of the hormone prolactin that causes the milky discharge.

If a pituitary tumor is identified, it must be reduced or surgically removed.

In case none of the above therapies respond, the doctor may consider surgery to remove the milk ducts permanently, surgery is the last option to stop the milky discharge from the nipple.

If a cause can be found, galactorrhea treatment is aimed at treating the cause, minimizing the effect of prolactin, or reducing prolactin production.

The following treatment modalities are used for various causes of galactorrhea:

  • If it is due to certain medications: the medication should be stopped and the doctor asked to change the medication or change the dose if possible.
  • Hypothyroidism: correct underactive thyroid with the use of thyroxine.
  • Thyroid tumor (prolactinoma): Surgical removal of the tumor or use of medications to shrink the tumor.

Idiopathic galactorrhea usually goes away on its own in most cases and may not require any treatment.

Very often, the galactorrhea condition will subside on its own without starting any treatment.

However, the chance of a milky discharge can be reduced by not touching the nipples while having sex and by wearing loose clothing on the breasts to reduce friction on the nipples.

For temporary relief, breast pads can be used that would absorb leakage effectively.