Awful name! It simply means that you have a high level of prolactin circulating in your blood. Prolactin is the hormone that stimulates the production of breast milk and the level rises normally during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Hyperprolactinaemia is the commonest biochemical disturbance of the pituitary gland. Malfunction of this gland producing high prolactin levels causes irregularity of your periods, most commonly lighter periods that are less frequent. It can be a cause of stopping your periods altogether and you may find that you are producing milk from your (non-pregnant) breasts.
Normal causes (physiological) pregnancy and breastfeeding. Another physiological cause is stress.
Some prescribed drugs:
phenothiazines, haloperidol, metoclopramide, oestrogens
Causes due to disease include:
Microprolactinomas are tiny tumours of the pituitary gland, which can cause hyperprolactinaemia. They do not always need treatment if, for instance you are post-menopausal or you do not wish to become pregnant. They do however need monitoring, as occasionally they expand and can then cause pressure effects in the brain. The commonest effects are headaches and visual disturbance, particularly a reduction in your visual fields .
- Disease of the pituitary gland
- Chronic kidney failure
- Underactive thyroid gland
- Sarcoid (a disease which can affect many organs)
Medical treatment with a drug called bromocriptine is usually indicated unless the tumours are very big, or pregnancy is anticipated. Surgery to remove the tumour is the other option.
Hyperprolactinaemia can occur in men, it usually causes impotence.
This article published on
28 November 2005
Next review date 11/1/2013
Contraception and pregnancy