What is galactorrhea?
Galactorrhea (say: "gal-act-tor-ee-ah") is a condition that occurs when a woman's breast makes milk (or a milky discharge) even though she is not breast feeding a baby. The milk may come from one or both breasts. It may leak with no stimulation or it may leak only when the breasts are touched.
Although less common, galactorrhea can occur in men.

What causes galactorrhea?
Galactorrhea has many causes. Here are some of them:
  • Tumors (usually benign), especially tumors of the pituitary (say: "pit-too-it-terry") gland, which is located in the brain
  • Medicines such as hormones, antidepressants, blood pressure medicines and certain tranquilizers
  • Herbal supplements such as nettle, fennel, blessed thistle, anise and fenugreek seed
  • Drugs such as marijuana and opiates
  • Pregnancy
  • Clothing that irritates the breasts (like scratchy wool shirts or bras that don't fit well)
  • Doing very frequent breast self-exams (daily exams)
  • Stimulation of the breast during sexual activity
  • Kidney disease
  • Oral contraceptives
  • An underactive thyroid (also called hypothyroidism), which is a gland that produces hormones
Sometimes the cause of galactorrhea can't be found.

Galactorrhea produces a white fluid. If the fluid coming from your breast is reddish, your doctor may want to check you for cancer. Blood in the discharge is not galactorrhea.

What are the symptoms of galactorrhea?
The symptoms of galactorrhea can include the following:
  • Milky discharge from one of both nipples (discharge may also be yellow or greenish in color)
  • An absence of menstrual periods or periods that are not regular
  • Headaches
  • Vision loss
  • Less interest in sex
  • Increase in hair growth on your chin or chest
  • Acne
  • Erectile dysfunction and less interest in sex in men
What tests might my doctor order?
Your doctor might order blood tests to check your hormone levels and to see if you are pregnant. Your doctor might also want you to have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan of your head to see if you have a tumor or abnormality of the pituitary gland.
Tests are not always needed if you and your doctor can figure out what is causing your galactorrhea.

How is galactorrhea treated?
Most tumors that cause galactorrhea are not cancerous. They can be treated with medicine or surgery, depending on the cause. If a certain medicine you are taking is causing your galactorrhea, your doctor may prescribe a different medicine.

In many cases, no treatment is necessary and the condition goes away on its own with time. Until it goes away, here are some things you can do to help:
  • Avoid stimulating your breasts.
  • Avoid touching your nipples during sexual activity.
  • Don't do breast self-exams more than one time a month.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing or clothing that causes friction.