Definition

What is prolactinoma?

Prolactinoma is a disease in which a noncancerous tumor (adenoma) of the pituitary gland, a gland in your brain, overproduces the hormone prolactin. The major effect is decreased levels of some sex hormones, estrogen in women and testosterone in men. Although prolactinoma isn’t life-threatening, it can impair your vision, cause infertility and produce other effects. Prolactinoma is the most common type of hormone-producing tumor that can develop in your pituitary gland.

Doctors can often treat prolactinoma with medications to restore your prolactin level to normal. Surgery to remove the pituitary tumor also might be an option.

How common is prolactinoma?

Clinically significant prolactionomas affect the health of approximately 14 out of 100,000 people. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of prolactinoma?

The common symptoms of this condition are:

In females:

  • Irregular menstrual periods (oligomenorrhea) or no menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
  • Milky discharge from the breasts (galactorrhea) when not pregnant or breast-feeding
  • Painful intercourse due to vaginal dryness
  • Acne and excessive body and facial hair growth (hirsutism)

In males:

In both sexes, prolactinoma can cause:

  • Low bone density
  • Reduction of other hormone production by the pituitary gland (hypopituitarism) as a result of tumor pressure
  • Loss of interest in sexual activity
  • Headaches
  • Visual disturbances
  • Infertility

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes prolactinoma?

Prolactinoma is a type of tumor that develops in the pituitary gland. Until now, the cause of these tumors is still unknown.

The pituitary gland is a small bean-shaped gland situated at the base of your brain. Despite its small size, the pituitary gland affects nearly every part of your body. Its hormones help regulate important functions such as growth, blood pressure and reproduction.

Other possible causes of prolactin overproduction include medications, other types of pituitary tumors, an underactive thyroid gland, an injury to the chest, pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for prolactinoma?

You may have higher risks for this condition if you are woman between 20 and 34 years old, but can occur in both sexes at any age. The disorder is rare in children.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is prolactinoma diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. Some common tests may include:

Blood tests

Blood tests can detect the overproduction of prolactin and whether levels of other hormones controlled by the pituitary are within the normal range. Women of childbearing age also will have a pregnancy test.

Brain imaging

Your doctor may be able to detect a pituitary tumor on an image generated by a magnetic resonance imaging scan of your brain.

Vision tests

These can determine if a pituitary tumor has impaired your sight.

In addition, your doctor may refer you for more extensive testing with a doctor who specializes in treating disorders of the endocrine system (endocrinologist). 

How is prolactinoma treated?

Goals in the treatment of prolactinoma include:

  • Return the production of prolactin to normal levels
  • Restore normal pituitary gland function
  • Reduce the size of the pituitary tumor
  • Eliminate any signs or symptoms from tumor pressure, such as headaches or vision problems
  • Improve quality of life
  • Prolactinoma treatment consists of two main therapies: medications and surgery.

Some common treatment options may include:

Medications

Oral medications often can decrease the production of prolactin and eliminate symptoms. Medications may also shrink the tumor. However, long-term treatment with medications is generally necessary.

Doctors use drugs known as dopamine agonists to treat prolactinoma. These drugs mimic the effects of dopamine, the brain chemical that normally controls prolactin production, but are much more potent and long lasting. Commonly prescribed medications include bromocriptine (Cycloset, Parlodel) and cabergoline. These drugs decrease prolactin production and may shrink the tumor in most people with prolactinoma.

Surgery

If drug therapy for prolactinoma doesn’t work or you can’t tolerate the medication, surgery to remove the tumor may be an option. Surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the nerves that control your vision.

The type of surgery you have will depend largely on the size and extent of your tumor:

Transsphenoidal surgery

Most people who need surgery have this procedure, in which the tumor is removed through the nasal cavity. Complication rates are low because no other areas of the brain are touched during surgery, and this surgery leaves no visible scars.

Transcranial surgery

If your tumor is large or has spread to nearby brain tissue, you may need this procedure, also known as a craniotomy. The surgeon reaches the tumor through the upper part of the skull.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage prolactinoma?

Unfortunately, there is no certain prevention for this condition.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: August 31, 2017 | Last Modified: August 31, 2017

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