The amount of prolactin in the blood is determined by a Prolactin (PRL) test. The pituitary gland, a tiny gland at the center of the skull, produces the hormone prolactin. Prolactin causes breast growth and milk production both during pregnancy and after delivery. Prolactin levels are frequently elevated in new and expectant mothers. For both men and non-pregnant women, levels are generally low.
A prolactinoma, a pituitary gland tumor, is present when prolactin levels are higher than average. This is because the gland produces too much prolactin due to this tumor. Women who are not pregnant or nursing can produce breast milk when prolactin levels are excessive. Menstrual irregularities and infertility can also result from excessive prolactin in women (the impotence to get pregnant). In addition, it may cause erectile dysfunction (ED) and decreased sex drive in men. The inability to obtain or preserve an erection is called ED, also known as impotence.
What happens when prolactin levels are measured?
A small needle is used by a medical professional to draw blood from the vein in your arm. After inserting the needle, a small quantity is accumulated into a test tube or vial. The needle may pinch slightly when it enters or exits your body.
What does it serve?
Most frequently, a Prolactin level test is used to:
- Identify a prolactinoma (a type of tumor of the pituitary gland)
- Find the root cause of a woman’s irregular menstruation and/or infertility
- Assist in determining the reason for a man’s low-sex desire and/or erectile dysfunction
Why should I have my prolactin levels checked?
If you are experiencing prolactinoma symptoms, you might require this test. Some signs could be:
- The ability to produce breast milk even if you are not pregnant or nursing
- Blunt discharge
- Alterations to vision
Depending on your gender (man or woman), you may experience various other symptoms. The symptoms you experience as a woman also relies on whether you’ve undergone menopause. Menopause is when a woman’s menstrual cycles have ceased, and she can no longer get pregnant. It typically begins when a woman is 50 or older.
Excess prolactin in women who have not yet reached menopause can cause the following symptoms:
- Irregular cycles
- Menopause: periods that have completely stopped before turning 40.
- Breast sensitivity
Menopausal women may not experience symptoms until their condition worsens. After menopause, excess prolactin frequently results in hypothyroidism. The body cannot produce enough thyroid hormone when this condition exists. Hypothyroidism symptoms include:
- Weight gain
- Muscle ache
- Difficulty with cold temperatures
Prolactin overproduction in men manifests as:
- Blunt discharge
- A larger breast
- Low-quality drive
- Erection problems
- Reduction in body hair
What do the findings of the Prolactin test indicate?
If your prolactin levels are higher than expected, you might have one of the following conditions:
- Prolactinoma (a type of tumor of the pituitary gland)
- Hypothyroidism: a condition affecting the hypothalamus. The pituitary and other bodily processes are under the control of the hypothalamus, a region of the brain.
- Liver illness
- Your doctor might request an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test. It is required if your prolactin levels are high.
Surgery or medication may be used to treat high prolactin levels. Speak with your healthcare professional if you have any questions regarding your results.
Prolactin Test Results are high.
If your value is outside the normal range, it is a sign that something is wrong. It can be higher for many reasons, including recent overeating or high pressure during the blood test.
Your prolactinoma may be detected if your levels are excessively high—up to 1,000 times. This tumor is not cancerous; medication is typically used to treat it. Your doctor might recommend that you get an MRI in this situation.
It will reveal whether there is and, if so, how large of a mass is present close to your pituitary gland.
Prolactin Test Results are low.
Your pituitary gland may not operate fully if your prolactin levels are below the normal range. This is referred to as hypopituitarism. Normal prolactin levels do not usually require medical attention.
What do I have to do to be ready for the test?
You must take your test within three to four hours of waking up. Prolactin levels fluctuate during the day, but the morning hours typically see the highest levels.
Make sure to disclose all medications you are taking to your healthcare provider. Prolactin levels can increase with some medicines. These include antidepressants, birth control pills, and medications for high blood pressure.
Does the test involve any risks?
The chance of having a blood test is meager. You might experience minor discomfort or bruise at the spot of the syringe insertion.