What is galactorrhea?

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Galactorrhea: Overview

Galactorrhea (say "guh-lak-tuh-REE-uh") happens when a woman's breasts make milk but the woman is not pregnant. The milk may leak from one or both breasts. Sometimes milk leaks only when the breast is touched. At other times, milk leaks without any touching. Galactorrhea can also happen in men, but this is rare.

Some medicines used to treat depression or high blood pressure can cause galactorrhea. It can also be caused by some hormone medicines, such as birth control pills, and medicines for some mental illnesses.

Herbs such as anise, fennel, and fenugreek seed can lead to galactorrhea. Other causes include having low levels of thyroid hormone and having a tumor in the pituitary gland. Your doctor may suggest more testing to find the cause. But often a cause cannot be found.

You may need to take medicine such as thyroid pills to treat low thyroid levels. Or you may need to stop a medicine that is causing the problem. In some cases, galactorrhea goes away without treatment. But if it is caused by a tumor, you may need surgery or medicine to treat the tumor.

How can you care for yourself when you have galactorrhea?

  • Do not handle, touch, or squeeze your nipples or breasts, even "just to check." This may cause the leakage to continue.
  • Wear a bra that fits well. Do not allow your clothes to rub against your breasts.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you have any problems with your medicine.

Galactorrhea: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have headaches or vision problems.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your breasts continue to leak milk.
  • The leakage looks bloody.
  • You stop having menstrual periods, or your periods become irregular.
  • You lose interest in sex.
  • You do not get better as expected.

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