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When you "leak" Breast Milk abnormally

Veronica noticed milk liquid leaking from her right breast some weeks ago. She panicked because she'd never been pregnant. There was no pain and her breasts looked the same as usual. She worried, but it didn't happen often and she thought it would stop soon. But it happened again while she was at the market the other day - all of a sudden, her close-fitting blouse was soaked across the front. The lady putting her purchase together noticed and asked if she was breastfeeding. Vero blamed it on the heat, feeling very embarassed; and resolved to book an appointment with her GP that day.

Lady of African origin in wide V neck blouse standing by a carved wooden door


What is Galactorrhoea?

The medical term for this problem is Galactorrhoea.

This is when you leak breast milk while you are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

Another word for producing milk from the breasts is lactation.

Any fluid or material coming from the breasts is known as abnormal nipple discharge.

The most common cause is a high hormone level - Prolactin.

Prolactin is a hormone produced in the brain that controls how milk is produced from the breasts.


Abnormal breast milk leaks can also happen in men and newborn babies.


What makes Prolactin level high (or imbalanced)?

High Prolactin has many causes such as :

  • Drugs - including prescribed medicines for Pain, Depression (and some other mental conditions), Family planning, Heartburn, high Blood pressure; and street drugs like Marijuana and Cocaine.
  • Medical problems like:
    • A disease of the thyroid, Kidney or Liver 
    • Chronic stress 
    • Problems with some parts of the brain
      • the Hypothalamus  (the part of the brain which controls the release of Prolactin when it is needed.)
      • the Pituitary gland, where prolactin is made.
    • Injury to the breast tissues
    • High Oestrogen hormone levels
    • Excess breast stimulation from tight clothing, excess breast examination or touching during sex.

Learn more about high Prolactin.


Tests to check why you leak breast milk

To understand how to completely cure the problem, we must know the cause.

For this to happen, Doctors will normally do the following:

1. Examine your breasts.

2. Arrange blood tests for hormone level as well as thyroid, kidney and liver problem.

3. Scans of the breast and the brain.


Treatments

Bromocriptine is a drug that is used to reduce the high level of Prolactin.

It can help to treat the symptoms of abnormally produced breast milk but NOT the cause.

So depending on the test results, the doctor will tell you what can be done to treat the cause:

  • Actions may include
    • stop taking certain drugs or medicines;
    • or address the disease condition of the kidneys, liver of thyroid organs.
  • Addressing the cause of stress
    • reducing breast stimulation (avoiding very tight bras or tight clothing) can also help relative to the cause.

Please speak with your doctor about this further to address definite causes.


HEALTH WARNING!!
Breast or Nipple "leak" or Discharge may be a sign of Breast Cancer.
If the discharge from your nipples is not milky and looks clear, bloody, or yellow, you must see a doctor as soon as possible.


More Reading:

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team

Disclaimer

All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly through info@askawayhealth.org


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