What is Hyperprolactinemia?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2019
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Hyperprolactinemia is a medical condition characterized by abnormally high levels of the hormone prolactin in the blood. Prolactin is produced by the anterior pituitary gland and is associated with lactation. Hyperprolactinemia is normal in pregnant and breastfeeding women. It can also be caused in men and women by stress or insufficient thyroid production, as a pharmaceutical side effect, or as a symptom of diseases affecting the hypothalamus, kidney, liver, ovaries, pituitary gland, or thyroid. Symptoms of hyperprolactinemia in women include the production of breast milk and disruptions in the menstrual cycle, while affected men can experience low testosterone, infertility, and erectile dysfunction.

Drugs that may cause hyperprolactinemia as a side effect include minoxidil for hair loss, cisapride for nausea and acid reflux disease, ramelteon for insomnia, tranquilizers, and antipsychotics. Any drugs that deplete the brain chemical dopamine or diminish its effects can cause hyperprolactinemia, because dopamine normally suppresses prolactin secretion. In fact, dopamine antagonists have been used for decades to induce the secretion of breast milk by stimulating prolactin secretion.


Hyperprolactinemia can also be caused by diseases that block the flow of dopamine to the anterior pituitary gland, such as tumors near the pituitary. Kidney failure and sarcoidosis are other possible causes. Increased prolactin levels are common following epileptic seizure, but not other types of seizure, so hyperprolactinemia can be used to diagnose epilepsy. In some cases, elevated prolactin levels present with no apparent medical cause. Prolactin secretion can be returned to normal levels through drugs or herbal supplements that stimulate dopamine, including bromocriptine, cabergoline, quinagolide, and the herb roseroot.

Men and women experience different symptoms of hyperprolactinemia. In women, the condition causes breast milk production, even if the woman is not pregnant. It can also cause low estrogen levels, leading to infertility, menstrual disruptions, loss of libido or sex drive, and vaginal dryness. Menstrual symptoms can take the form of missed periods, irregular bleeding, and even the complete absence of menstrual periods, a condition called amenorrhoea.

Men suffering from raised prolactin levels can experience symptoms including infertility, loss of libido, and erectile dysfunction. In rare cases, affected men can also produce breast milk. Often, the symptoms are too mild in men to catch the disorder early on. In advanced stages caused by tumor, the enlarged pituitary gland can cause headaches and vision loss if it presses on the optic nerve. Excessive prolactin levels can lead to osteoporosis in the long term as a result of decreased estrogen.


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Post 7

I have a question. Why do we use dopamine agoniste for treating hyperprolactinemia?

Post 6

I can't imagine a poor man excreting breast milk. That must be a blow to the masculinity!

Pair that with erectile dysfunction and loss of interest in intercourse, and you would have one upset male. Since it's been proven that men think about sex very often every day, this could turn their whole world upside down!

I imagine they would be very embarrassed to be playing sports or working out shirtless and suddenly start lactating. Other men would tease them mercilessly, though deep inside, they would be fearing that the same thing could possibly happen to them.

Post 5

I had amenorrhea, and I had never given birth or been pregnant. I went for three months without a period, and though I was glad to be without the bloating and cramps, I knew something must be wrong in my body for this to happen.

I visited my doctor, and she found that I had hyperprolactinemia. She gave me three pills to take over the next few days, and she said they should make my period start up again.

The pills corrected the hormonal imbalance, and my period did return. I can't say I'm happy to have it back, but at least I know that nothing is majorly wrong with me.

Post 4

@cloudel – If your husband is depressed, it could be from more than just the erectile dysfunction. If he does have hyperprolactinemia, then his dopamine levels are low.

Dopamine is what makes us feel pleasure. Our brain releases it after something enjoyable, like being praised for something or having sex. Without it, we can't feel the goodness we usually feel in such situations.

I took a nausea medication for a short while that lowered my dopamine levels. Life became bland and gray, so I stopped taking it. I found natural ways to deal with my nausea, because I missed my dopamine so much!

Post 3

I find it sad that a drug used to treat hair loss, which many men view as a loss of their desirability, can cause hyperprolactinemia and lead to erectile dysfunction. I believe they would rather lose some hair than deal with this!

My husband started taking minoxidil last month, and though it seems to be working on his hair, he has lost all interest in sex. He also seems generally depressed.

Maybe he doesn't know that the drug could be causing this. I am going to tell him what I have learned from this article.

Post 2

@ElizaBennett - I'm glad that you bring this up. When I was nursing my first child, I developed a serious case of "baby blues." My doctor told me to wean her so that I could get some sleep and take antidepressants. And I followed that advice.

I wish I had had better support, because weaning didn't help as much as she told me it would (apparently breastfeeding also has a protective effect on mood because of the oxytocin it generates) and because I felt like such a failure.

I'm hoping for a better experience with my second child. A friend of mine told me that things get better after the period of amenorrhea ends, but I guess that's different for everyone. I have a new doctor and much better support lined up this time!

Post 1

It's interesting to read about the causes and effects of hyperprolactinemia because it makes you realize that breastfeeding, during which time prolactin levels are naturally high, is not always super pleasant!

Vaginal dryness? Yep. Low dopamine? Have some mood swings. Sexual desire? Not so much.

I bring all this up not so much to say that breastfeeding is bad. I breastfed both my children for an extended period, and the symptoms associated with it get less as the child gets older and nurses less often.

I bring it up because breastfeeding mothers often feel out of control and like they don't know what's happening to them. Knowing what is going on, why it is happening, and how long it will last can be really helpful in dealing with some of the less pleasant aspects of nursing.

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