Prolactin is a hormone produced and secreted by the anterior pituitary - the front part of the pituitary gland. Prolactin is also called the hormone of lactation.
The reason for this naming is its active role in preparing a woman's body for breastfeeding - levels rise and begin to synthesize breast milk. The physiological role of prolactin in men is still unclear.
The secretion of prolactin in the human body is uneven. It's low during the day and rises during sleep. The menstrual cycle has a very weak influence on the level of prolactin.
Its levels rise during pregnancy, while changing significantly during the lactation period, depending on the breastfeeding rhythm. Many physiological situations can cause a rise in the level of prolactin in the blood - irritation during suckling in the nursing period, stress, heavy physical labor, sexual intercourse and others.
Levels of Prolactin
The normal levels of prolactin vary between 59 - 619 mIU/L. During high levels of prolactin, the breasts become sore, blurred vision and headache occur, along with irregular period and ovulation, amenorrhea, vaginal dryness. Lactation from the breasts is possible. In significantly high levels of prolactin, hypothyroidism may occur.
Increased levels of prolactin may cause serious negative consequences such as infertility as a result of prevented ovulation. When levels of prolactin surge too high, we see disruption in gonadotropin release by the hypothalamus and luteinizing hormone by the pituitary gland. These processes lead to a disruption in the release of progesterone and estrogen.
There are several causes of high prolactin levels. The most common is adenoma of the pituitary gland. This is considered a benign tumor, unlike cancer. Other possible causes are the intake of proteins, painkillers, antidepressants, contraceptive pills, blood pressure pills, certain hormone medications, drugs and alcohol.
Other causes include brain diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, problems with the functioning of the thyroid, ovarian diseases. In 65% of patients on hemodialysis there are high levels of prolactin present. Because of this it is believed that kidney diseases may also be linked to adenoma of the pituitary gland.
High levels of prolactin can be detected using a blood test, with at least 2 needed to detect a high level of it. Oftentimes after a blood test they perform a blood scan as well to see if there isn't a tumor in the pituitary gland. Such a tumor is found in about 5% of women with high prolactin.
Low levels of prolactin can be caused by vitex overdose, certain autoimmune disorders, post surgery periods, disruption in the function of the anterior pituitary.
This type of test is done to measure the levels of prolactin. You should not eat or drink water for a certain period of time, which your doctor determines, before the test. Testing shouldn't be done immediately after going through emotional stress or strenuous physical activity, nipple stimulation, sleep problems.
A prolactin test is done to try to find the possible cause of absent period; to determine whether there is a tumor in the anterior pituitary; in men suspected of having a problem with the anterior pituitary.
Treating High Prolactin
Hormonal therapy is used to treat high prolactin caused by kidney failure or hypothyroidism. It aims to normalize the quantity of prolactin in the blood and stop galactorrhoea (milk secretions from the breasts).
When the cause of high prolactin is the taking of a certain medication, it is suspended. If there is a presence of tumors in the pituitary gland, medicinal or surgical treatment follows, regardless of the size of the tumor.