Symptoms of High Prolactin Hormone Levels

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Prolactin is a hormone. It is one of many hormones secreted by the pituitary gland, a small structure in the brain.

Prolactin has two primary functions:

  • Promote breast development
  • Induce lactation, or milk production for breastfeeding

High prolactin is also called hyperprolactinemia. Prolactin levels are normally high in people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. In other people, high prolactin can cause problems.

Prolactin is present in both males and females. High prolactin is more common in females.

This article will discuss some of the symptoms and causes of high prolactin. It will also discuss how this condition is diagnosed and treated.

Blood test tubes

 Alessandro Contadini / Getty Images

Causes of High Prolactin

High prolactin levels can have various causes, including:

Certain medications can also cause high prolactin levels. These include:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants, like Anafranil (clomipramine) and Norpramin (desipramine)
  • Certain antipsychotics, like Haldol (haloperidol), Zyprexa (olanzapine), and Risperdal (risperidone)
  • Calan (verapamil), a blood pressure medication
  • Reglan (metoclopramide), an anti-nausea medication
  • Histamine (H2) blockers, a type of heartburn medication

How Common Is Hyperprolactinemia?

High prolactin happens most often in females. Rates can vary in different populations.

The condition is common. In a random adult sample, around 0.4% will have high prolactin. That number climbs to between 9% and 17% in women with reproductive diseases. 

Symptoms of High Prolactin Levels

Some people with high prolactin do not have symptoms. When symptoms happen, they may include:

Diagnosis of High Prolactin

Prolactin can be measured with a blood test. Some outside factors can affect the results.

Prolactin is thought to have a role in sexual satisfaction. For that reason, you should avoid sex and/or breast stimulation the night before the test.

If the test shows high prolactin levels, your healthcare provider may want to repeat it. For the second test, you will need to avoid food for at least eight hours.

Your healthcare provider may also order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. This test can look for a pituitary growth or tissue damage.

Your healthcare provider may also order blood tests to check the levels of other pituitary hormones. This can help rule out other conditions that may have similar symptoms.

Recap

High prolactin can be diagnosed with a blood test. In some cases, an MRI or other blood tests may be needed to determine the cause.

Treatment of High Prolactin

The goal of treatment is to get the levels back to normal. This can often be done with medications like dopamine agonists. These are medications that stimulate dopamine receptors.

If high prolactin is caused by a pituitary tumor, surgery may be needed.

After successful treatment, your healthcare provider may want you to have regular blood tests to make sure your prolactin levels stay in a normal range. If your condition was caused by a tumor, you may need another MRI to check tumor size and growth.

Summary

High prolactin levels can have a number of causes. This includes diseases of the kidneys, thyroid, pituitary gland, and others.

Because some of these conditions can be serious, you should always consult a healthcare provider if you have symptoms of high prolactin. Certain medications can also cause higher prolactin levels.

Symptoms of high prolactin include sexual and menstrual problems, infertility, breast milk leakage, and others. The condition can be diagnosed with a blood test. In some cases, an MRI may be needed. 

The goal of high prolactin treatment is to return levels to normal. Depending on the cause, this can be done with medication or surgery. 

Was this page helpful?
4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Majumdar A, Mangal NS. HyperprolactinemiaJ Hum Reprod Sci. 2013;6(3):168-175. doi:10.4103/0974-1208.121400

  2. Navy H, Gardner K. Strategies for managing medication-induced hyperprolactinemia. Curr Psychiatry. 2018;17(3):42-7.

  3. Majumdar A, Mangal NS. Hyperprolactinemia. J Hum Reprod Sci. 2013;6(3):168-75. doi:10.4103/0974-1208.121400

  4. Leeners B, Kruger TH, Brody S, Schmidlin S, Naegeli E, Egli M. The quality of sexual experience in women correlates with post-orgasmic prolactin surges: results from an experimental prototype study. J Sex Med. 2013;10(5):1313-9. doi:10.1111/jsm.12097