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Definition Return to top
Prolactinomas are benign tumors of the pituitary gland that secrete prolactin. This hormone is best known for inducing milk production in women, but it also serves as a regulator of sexual function in men.
Causes Return to top
Prolactinomas are the most common pituitary tumors. Men and women are equally likely to be affected. However, smaller tumors (microadenomas) are more common in women, probably because of earlier detection.
Prolactinomas may occur alone or as part of multiple endocrine tumor syndromes.
Symptoms Return to top
Symptoms in men include decreased sex drive, impotence, headache, visual impairment, galactorrhea (secretion of milk, which is uncommon), and symptoms of hypopituitarism (low levels of pituitary function, which result in lowered levels of thyroid or adrenal hormones).
Sexual dysfunction may result from hyperprolactinemia alone or from secondary hypogonadism (low testosterone levels).
Exams and Tests Return to top
Signs may include visual field defects, gynecomastia (enlarged breasts), galactorrhea, loss of musculature or body hair, and signs of hypothyroidism or hypoadrenalism.
Tests may show:
Treatment Return to top
Treatment often includes use of dopamine-agonist medications (bromocriptine or cabergoline), which lower levels of prolactin. In severe cases (very large or unresponsive tumors), surgery or radiation may be necessary.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Most prolactinomas respond well to medication. However, permanent visual loss or hypopituitarism (lowered function of the pituitary gland) may occur.
Possible Complications Return to top
Complications include visual loss and infertility. Some people experience nasal congestion, dizziness with standing, nausea, and fatigue, which may be side effects of dopamine-agonist medications.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you have any symptoms of prolactinoma.Update Date: 8/6/2004 Updated by: Aniket R. Sidhaye, M.D., Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.