NORD gratefully acknowledges Michael O. Thorner, MB BS, DSc, FRCP, MACP, David C. Harrison Medical Teaching Professor of Internal Medicine, University of Virginia Health System, for assistance in the preparation of this report.
A prolactinoma is a benign tumor of the pituitary gland (adenoma) that produces an excessive amount of the hormone prolactin. In women, hyperprolactinemia is characterized by irregular menstrual periods (amenorrhea), infertility and production of breast milk in women who are not pregnant (galactorrhea). The most common symptom in men is impotence.
Many of the symptoms of prolactinoma are caused by an excessive amount of prolactin in the blood (hyperprolactinemia). In women, prolactinoma is characterized by irregular menstrual periods (amenorrhea), infertility and production of breast milk in women who are not pregnant (galactorrhea). Some women experience diminished sexual desire or painful intercourse. The most common symptom in men is impotence.
Some symptoms such as headaches and vision abnormalities are caused by pressure from the pituitary tumor on other tissues and the optic chiasm.
The cause of pituitary tumors is unknown. Most pituitary tumors are sporadic and not associated with genetic factors that are inherited or can be passed on to children.
Pituitary tumors that produce enough prolactin to affect health occur in approximately 14 out of 100,000 people.
Prolactinoma is treated with medications that act like dopamine (dopamine agonists) such as bromocriptine and cabergoline because dopamine inhibits prolactin secretion. These medications reduce the size of the tumor and reduce the amount of prolactin secretion in approximately 80% of patients. Surgery may be recommended if medical therapy is not effective. Pituitary tumors recur after surgery in some affected individuals.
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Prolactinoma. National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). http://endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/prolact/prolact.aspx. Updated May 2009. Accessed March 27, 2012.
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