What Is Hyperprolactinemia?

Hyperprolactinemia is a condition in which there are unusually high prolactin levels in one’s blood. People who have this condition may also have prolactinomas (benign, or harmless, tumors or growths on the pituitary gland).

What Does Prolactin Do?

Prolactin is a hormone that is necessary for breast milk production. It is made in the pituitary gland (a small gland at the base of the brain). Additionally, prolactin can affect levels of estrogen and testosterone in the body. Very high prolactin levels lead to low levels of estrogen and testosterone.

What Causes Hyperprolactinemia?

There are many causes of hyperprolactinemia, including:

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Nipple stimulation in breastfeeding or breast exams in females
  • Stress
  • Certain medications used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, nausea/vomiting, depression and other mental health disorders, and hypertension, or for birth control
  • Injuries or conditions that affect the chest
  • Certain medical conditions, such as a hypothyroidism (overactive thyroid) and chronic renal failure (long-term kidney failure)
  • Prolactinomas (pituitary tumors that make prolactin)
  • Tumors, diseases and treatments near the pituitary gland and hypothalamus

What Are the Symptoms of Hyperprolactinemia?

In females:

  • Decrease in or loss of periods
  • Lowered libido (sex drive)
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Breast milk secretion
  • Breast pain
  • Infertility

In males:

  • Lower libido
  • Impotence (inability to maintain an erection)
  • Low sperm count and infertility
  • Lower muscle mass
  • Anemia (low iron levels in the blood)
  • Less body hair
  • Enlargement of and pain in the breasts

All sexes:

  • Low bone density
  • Headaches, nausea, vomiting
  • Disturbances in vision
  • Decreased production of other hormones made by the pituitary gland if the cause of high prolactin is a large prolactinoma or tumors, diseases or treatments near the pituitary gland and/or hypothalamus