A test of prolactin (PRL) tests how much of a hormone you have in your blood, called prolactin. You produce the hormone in your pituitary gland, which is just below your brain.
When women become pregnant or have just given birth, their levels of prolactin rise so that they can produce breast milk. But if you are not pregnant, and even if you are a child, it’s possible to have high levels of prolactin.
If you have the following symptoms, your doctor can order a prolactin test to:
- Deadlines irregular or no
- Discharge of the breast milk when you are not pregnant or nursing
- Tenderness within the breast
- Menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and dryness in the vagina
Causes of Abnormal Prolactin Levels
Men and nonpregnant women usually only have small amounts of prolactin in their blood. This may be triggered by: when you have high levels
Prolactinoma (a benign tumor that is storing too much prolactin in your pituitary gland)
Hypothalamus-affected diseases (the part of the brain controlling the pituitary gland)
Medicines used for treating depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure
Even kidney disease, liver failure, and ovarian polycystic syndrome (a hormone disorder that causes ovaries) can all impair the ability of the body to expel prolactin.
How is the test done?
There’s no need to make special arrangements for a prolactin examination. You are going to have a blood sample taken at a laboratory or hospital. A laboratory worker can stick a needle in your arm into a vein to draw a tiny amount of blood out.
Some people just notice a bit of a hiss. Others may experience mild pain and afterward see some swelling.
You will be receiving the results of your prolactin test in the form of a number after a few days.
The normal range within your blood for prolactin is:
- Males: 2 to 18 nanograms (ng / mL) per millilitre
- Non-pregnant women: 2-29 ng / mL
- Pregnant women: 10-209 ng / mL
High Prolactin Levels
This does not always mean you have a problem if your value falls beyond the normal range. Even after you have had your blood test, the levels will be higher if you have eaten or have been under a lot of stress.
What’s called a standard range can also be different depending on the laboratory the doctor is using.
If you have extremely high levels — up to 1,000 times the upper limit of what’s considered natural — this may be a sign that you have a prolactinoma. This tumor is not cancer, and medication is generally used to treat it. Maybe your doctor may want you to get an MRI in this situation.
You can lie inside a magnetic tube, as the MRI system uses radio waves to generate an accurate brain image. It will indicate if there is a mass close to your pituitary gland, and if so, how large it is.
Low Prolactin Levels
If your levels of prolactin are below the normal range, this may mean that your pituitary gland does not function at full steam. That is called hypopituitarism. Higher prolactin concentrations typically do not require medical attention.
Some medications may cause prolactin to low levels. Including:
Dopamine (Cabergoline), available to people who are in shock
Levodopa (for sickness with Parkinson)
Not all cases of elevated levels of prolactin need medication.
Diagnosis can depend on the condition. If it turns out to be a small prolactinoma, or you can’t find a cause, your doctor does not prescribe any medication.
Your doctor may prescribe medication to lower the prolactin levels in some cases. If you have a prolactinoma, the aim is to use medication to reduce the tumor size and decrease the prolactin material.