Prolactinoma is a nonmalignant tumor of the pituitary gland. This growth affects a hormone produced by the pituitary gland called prolactin. This, in turn, affects two sex hormones. It decreases the level of estrogen in women and testosterone in men.
The causes of prolactinoma are largely unknown. But it is attributed to a genetic history or medication. Medications such as dopamine antagonists or surgery are used as a treatment option for prolactinoma.
Prolactinoma is a noncancerous tumor that is seen in the pituitary gland. It affects the hormone called prolactin. The purpose of prolactin is to activate the milk ducts in a woman’s breasts during her pregnancy to prepare for lactation. Having prolactinomas has been attributed to infertility. It also causes a decrease in sex hormones such as estrogen in women and testosterone in men. There are no known causes for prolactinoma. But experts have suggested that genetics is a possible cause for the condition.
Prolactinomas are diagnosed through three tests. They are:
- Blood tests: Blood tests are conducted to check the level of prolactin along with other hormones that are produced by the pituitary gland.
- Brain imaging: Magnetic imaging scans can easily detect prolactinomas in your brain.
- Vision tests: These tests are conducted to see whether your vision is impaired. They can also be used to diagnose prolactinomas.
What are the symptoms of prolactinoma?
The following are the symptoms of prolactinoma:
- Excessive hair growth on the body and face
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Vaginal dryness
- Irregular periods
- Milk like discharge when not pregnant
- Decreased interest in sexual intercourse
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Decreased body and facial hair in men
- Enlarged breasts in men (uncommonly)
In both sexes, prolactinoma can cause:
- Reduction in the production of other hormone by the pituitary gland as a result of tumor pressure
- Loss of interest in sexual activity
- Low bone density
- Visual disturbances
When to see a doctor?
If you have any of the aforementioned symptoms, including excessive body and facial hair growth, milky discharge when not pregnant, irregular or no menstruation, reduction in the hormone prolactin, vaginal dryness, less interest in sexual intercourse, pain during sex, you must visit your doctor.
Risk factors and complications associated with prolactinoma
There are a few factors that make you more vulnerable to developing prolactinoma, they are
- It is more common in women than men
- It is more common in adults than children
Prolactinoma is not dangerous. But it does cause discomfort. A few complications may arise due to prolactinoma, which include,
- Lower levels of estrogen in women
- Lower levels of testosterone in men
- Osteoporosis characterized by bone loss
- Decreased levels of other hormones of the pituitary gland such as cortisol and thyroid
- Changes in vision
What are the treatment options for prolactinoma?
The purpose of treatment is to get the level of prolactin back to normal, decrease the size of the growth and restore the functioning of the pituitary gland to normal. The two treatment plans for prolactinoma are,
- Medications: Your doctor will prescribe a dopamine agonist medication. The function of this is to bring the overproduction of prolactin back to normal. It also helps in reducing the size of the tumor.
- Surgery: This is done in cases where the tumor is too large or if a woman is trying to get pregnant. There are two types of surgery, including,
- Nasal surgery: Also known as transsphenoidal surgery, it is also the most common of the two surgeries. In this, the tumor is removed through the nasal cavity.
- Transcranial surgery: This surgery is performed in case the tumor has spread to the brain tissue. The tumor is removed through upper part of the skull.
Prolactinomas are benign tumors of the pituitary gland. These tumors affect the hormone prolactin. This, in turn, causes symptoms such as headaches, excessive hair growth, impaired vision, infertility.
Prolactinomas are more common in women than men and are rarely diagnosed in children. Medications such as dopamine agonists are crucial in the reduction of the size of the tumor. If the tumor is too big, surgical procedures are used to remove the tumour .
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is prolactinoma dangerous?
No, prolactinoma is a benign tumor. It is not life-threatening.
Are there any side effects to taking dopamine agonists?
Yes, there are a few side effects that appear after taking dopamine agonists. They include drowsiness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and nasal stuffiness.
Can my child have prolactinoma?
The chances of your child having prolactinoma is low because it is very rare in children.