What is Prolactin?
A PRL test or the prolactin test measures the levels of prolactin in your blood. Prolactin is a hormone that is secreted from the pituitary gland of females. Prolactin plays an important role in pregnancy and fertility. Prolactin levels increase during pregnancy and stimulate the growth of breasts and the secretion of milk for the baby. Prolactin levels are very high among pregnant women and usually low for men and non-pregnant women. When the prolactin test shows an unusually high level of the hormone, it can mean a tumor or disease onset.
Causes of the high level of prolactin
High levels of prolactin can happen because of many reasons. A high level of prolactin can indicate a tumour near the pituitary gland for non-pregnant women. Moreover, high levels of prolactin can also cause milk secretion in men and non-pregnant women. Constant high levels of prolactin cause hormonal imbalance in women. As a consequence, prolactin levels can cause irregularities in periods and menstrual problems. In extreme cases, high prolactin levels can be reasons for infertility in women. In men, high prolactin levels can cause sexual dysfunction and infertility. For example, a high level of prolactin can be a sign of low sex drive and erectile dysfunction. In men, increased levels of prolactin can cause impotence. Therefore, the Prolactin test can diagnose infertility in both men and women.
When do you need a prolactin test?
You need a prolactin test when you see symptoms related to the fluctuation of prolactin levels.
- Production of milk– If you are not pregnant and your breasts are secreting milk, then you might have a high level of prolactin in your blood.
- Nipple discharge– if your breasts are not producing milk but you are seeing some nipple discharge, then you should get a prolactin test to monitor the hormone levels.
- Headaches-Fluctuating prolactin levels sometimes cause headaches. If you experience frequent headaches from time to time, then you should get your prolactin levels checked.
- Vision Changes – Vision changes, like blurry vision, can be signs of prolactin fluctuation and hormonal imbalance. It can be a sign that you need prolactin testing.
What happens during the prolactin test?
A blood sample is taken for the Prolactin test. The laboratory professionals collect your blood with the help of an intravenous syringe. The sample is collected in a vial and stored for analysis. The procedure is safely conducted with a sterile syringe. It is advisable to get the test done from a reputed lab for accurate results. The test does not cause a lot of pain or discomfort to the patient.
What do the results of the prolactin test mean?
High levels of prolactin may indicate several things. High levels of prolactin can be a preliminary diagnosis for various diseases. An increased quantity of prolactin can be a sign of prolactinoma. The increased level of prolactin can also show that you are suffering from hypothyroidism. The disease also affects the hypothalamus. So, neural and hormonal complications can show up with a high level of prolactin. The increased volume of prolactin in your blood may indicate liver disease. High levels of prolactin in men can also be signs of infertility and impotence. It is advisable to consult your doctor with your test results for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
The prolactin test can be used to see fluctuations in prolactin levels and fertility levels in men and women. The test is mainly done during the menstrual cycle of women so that proper detection of the hormone can be done. Usually, the prolactin level is very high when you sleep. So, prolactin tests are done after three hours of waking up. The prolactin test can also show high levels for PCOS patients and can be used to monitor their hormone levels. Strenuous exercise and lack of sleep, foods, and certain medications can be the reason behind fluctuations in prolactin hormones. Your doctor will diagnose the reason behind prolactin level fluctuation and suggest ways of improving the condition. If the doctor suspects prolactinoma, he will ask for MRI and brain scans to find out the shape and size of the tumor. In such cases, the medication and surgical methods will vary from fertility treatments.
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