Prolactin Test: What Is It and Why Is It Done?
- Published on August 26, 2022
The pituitary gland, also referred to as the hypophysis, is a pea-sized gland in the human body. It is part of the endocrine system and is positioned at the base of the brain.
The pituitary gland has two main parts, namely, the anterior pituitary and posterior pituitary, also known as the front lobe and back lobe, respectively.
The front lobe of the pituitary gland secretes and releases various hormones in the bloodstream like a follicle-stimulating hormone, growth hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and prolactin.
Prolactin produced by the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland is responsible for lactation and breast tissue development in the female body.
Both males and females produce the prolactin hormone, but females have a high level of prolactin as compared to males. The normal level of prolactin in females is less than 25ng/ml, whereas it is less than 17 ng/ml for males.
What is prolactin test?
A prolactin test measures the prolactin levels in the bloodstream. Prolactin levels in a breastfeeding mother increase as the pituitary gland start producing more prolactin. After the mother has stopped breastfeeding, the prolactin level goes back to normal.
Sometimes prolactin levels are high for women who are not breastfeeding or pregnant. Men can also have a higher-than-normal level of prolactin.
This condition is called prolactinoma. Hence, doctors often order a prolactin test to diagnose or treat prolactinoma.
What is prolactinoma?
Tumour growth inside the pituitary gland can make it secrete too much prolactin. This kind of tumour is known as a prolactinoma. Fortunately, this tumour growth is commonly benign and not cancerous.
However, it is still necessary to treat it as soon as possible.
Symptoms of prolactinoma differ for both men and women.
Women can experience symptoms like infertility, irregular menstrual cycle, tenderness in breasts, hot flashes, vaginal drying, breast milk production while not being pregnant, and unexplained headaches.
For men, the common symptoms are low sex drive, breast enlargement, breast tenderness, unexplained headaches, difficulty getting an erection, and producing breast milk in very rare cases.
Other causes of high prolactin level
Apart from prolactinoma, some other causes of high prolactin levels can be:
- Drugs used to cure conditions like depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, psychosis, schizophrenia
- Eating disorders like anorexia
- Conditions affecting the hypothalamus
- Chest injuries or deep scars
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (POS)
- Kidney problems
- Liver problems
- Epileptic seizures
- Lung cancer
- Illness induced stress
- Pituitary disorders
- Excessive cannabis use
Treatment for high prolactin levels
The goal of treating high prolactin levels is to return the production of prolactin by the pituitary gland within the normal range. If an individual is experiencing high prolactin levels due to prolactinoma, then the treatment will also aim to reduce the size of the tumour in the pituitary gland.
The two common treatments for high prolactin levels are medication and therapy.
The two most used medicines for high prolactin are cabergoline and bromocriptine. These drugs are dopamine agonists and mimic the effects of dopamine. They control how much prolactin is produced by the pituitary gland and reduce the size of the tumour.
However, keep in mind that these medicines do not start showing effect immediately. You will be required to incorporate them into your lifestyle and take them daily. If you are regular, they will help regulate your prolactin levels significantly.
Surgical removal of the tumour is the last option and is only used when the medicines fail to work. Sometimes surgery is also done to relieve the pressure the tumour exerts on the nerves controlling the vision.
Depending upon factors like age, sex, and medical records, a doctor might perform a nasal or transcranial surgery to remove the tumour.
How is the prolactin test done?
A prolactin blood test is done to measure the level of prolactin in the body. A health practitioner will take a blood sample which will then be sent to the laboratory for testing.
The prolactin level changes multiple times throughout the day but is usually at its highest during the morning hours. Hence, your doctor might advise you to get your prolactin test done in the morning.
Avoid taking too much stress before the test as it can fluctuate the prolactin level in your body.
Additionally, make sure you inform your doctor of your entire medical history, as it will allow them to make more informed decisions. Certain medicines like birth control pills, antidepressants, and blood pressure medicine can also interfere with the test result.
If you take these medicines, take them after the test has been successfully done.
Some other factors which might affect the test results are:
- Alcohol consumption
- Lack of sleep
- Heavy exercise right before the test
- Nipple stimulation right before the test
- Kidney problems
- Liver problems
Are there any risks involved in the prolactin test?
A prolactin test is a simple blood test, and there are no risks involved. You might feel a small prick when the health practitioner will draw your blood sample.
If you tend to feel dizzy during a blood test, inform your health practitioner before the test. They will then take all the important measures to make you feel as comfortable as possible.
What is the prolactin test price in India?
A prolactin test cost in India is somewhere between 350 INR to 500 INR. Depending on the city, the cost might vary a little.
High prolactin level is a very common in the female body nowadays, especially during pregnancy and other lifestyle habits. Do not be excessively worried if you are also experiencing this condition. Just keep an eye on your symptoms and get medical advice as and when needed.
Many treatment plans and preventive care make it easier for you. To get the best treatment for high prolactin levels, visit Birla Fertility and IVF Clinic now and book an appointment with Dr. Muskaan Chhabra.
1. What is a prolactin test?
A prolactin test measures the prolactin levels in the bloodstream. The procedure involves a simple blood test, after which the sample is sent to a laboratory for testing. Results usually come out after 24-36 hours.
2. When should the prolactin test be done?
If you are experiencing symptoms like tenderness in the breast, breast milk production while not being pregnant, and unexplained headaches, it is best to get a prolactin test done.
3. What happens if your prolactin levels are high?
Symptoms of high prolactin levels differ for both men and women. Women can experience symptoms like infertility, irregular menstrual cycle, tenderness in breasts, breast milk production while not being pregnant, and unexplained headaches. For men, the common symptoms are low sex drive, breast enlargement, breast tenderness, and difficulty getting an erection.
Dr Muskaan Chhabra
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