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Elevated prolactin: Causes and symptoms of excess

20 Jan, 2023

Elevated prolactin: Causes and symptoms of excess

Prolactin is an important hormone that plays a crucial role in pregnancy and the formation of breast milk. There are several reasons why prolactin levels can be elevated. We will explain what these are and how the prolactin excess becomes noticeable in the following.

Increased prolactin: the most important facts at a glance

  • Among other things, prolactin ensures that the mammary glands produce breast milk.
  • Causes of increased prolactin levels include dopamine deficiency and stress.
  • A tumour in the pituitary gland called a prolactinoma can also lead to excess prolactin.
  • Elevated prolactin levels are noticeable, among other things, through menstrual irregularities.
  • If symptoms occur, women should have themselves examined promptly so that the excess can be treated if necessary.

What is the function of prolactin?

Prolactin is a hormone from the gonadotropin group. In women, it makes the mammary glands grow and stimulates the production of breast milk. Apart from that, prolactin ensures that the hormones that trigger ovulation are inhibited.

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What are the causes of elevated prolactin?

Normally, prolactin is elevated when women are pregnant or breastfeeding. However, elevated prolactin levels can also be caused by a prolactinoma, for example. This is a tumour in the pituitary gland that produces prolactin and thus causes elevated levels.

Other possible triggers for excess prolactin include:

  • Prolonged stress
  • Dopamine deficiency
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Kidney failure
  • Certain medicines

How do elevated prolactin levels manifest themselves?

Excess prolactin can cause a variety of symptoms. Among other things, it can cause ovulation to fail and your menstrual cycle to be irregular.

In addition to menstrual irregularities, the excess prolactin can also lead to increased growth of body hair. It is also possible that your breasts secrete milk even though you are not pregnant.best period pants uk

Infertility due to elevated prolactin

If your prolactin is permanently elevated, this can even lead to infertility. If you are trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, it may well be because your body is producing too much prolactin.

Elevated prolactin levels after the menopause

After the menopause, early detection of elevated prolactin levels is usually difficult. This is because after the menopause, symptoms such as irregularities in the menstrual cycle may no longer occur.

How are elevated prolactin levels diagnosed?

If you suspect that your prolactin levels are too high, it is important to see your gynaecologist. The gynaecologist can measure the prolactin levels in your blood and check whether they are actually elevated.

When interpreting the test results, the phase of the menstrual cycle and the age of the patient must be taken into account, among other things. If the prolactin is indeed elevated, the next step is to find out the cause.

How are elevated prolactin levels treated?

Elevated prolactin levels are usually treated with medications that stimulate the body's production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Since dopamine inhibits the release of prolactin among other things, this is usually a good way to lower levels.

period pantiesIf you have prolactinoma, you may have to have an operation. During the operation, the tumour in the pituitary gland is removed. Of course, it is not possible to say in general terms whether this is really necessary, and it has to be carefully considered in each individual case.

Can the prolactin levels also be too low?

Prolactin levels can not only be too high, but also too low. However, this is only quite rarely the case. Possible triggers are certain medications as well as diseases that affect the function of the pituitary gland.

The low prolactin levels can become noticeable through cycle disturbances and the lack of breast milk production. Whether treatment is necessary depends on the exact cause.


As you can see, elevated prolactin levels can have very different causes. If you notice possible symptoms of excess prolactin or have an unfulfilled desire to have a child, it is recommended that you have your prolactin level measured. So don't hesitate and contact your gynaecologist promptly if necessary.