Leaky Breast But not Pregnant, Why Does it Happen?
Leaky breast is when there is milk being produced from your breast. There are hormones in the body that sends a signal to different parts to trigger an action, a specific hormone stimulates milk production in the breast. This hormone sends signals to your mammary glands for it to begin breast milk production to feed your baby. The medical term for this is lactation. Normally, it is the woman who just put to birth or those who are pregnant that lactate but there are some unusual conditions whereby nonpregnant women lactate. This is a medical condition known as galactorrhea and it can occur for various reasons.
It has been discovered that about twenty to twenty-five percent of women have galactorrhea. There are accompanying symptoms of this condition with the most common being excessive milk production in either or both breasts. Women suffer most from galactorrhea, but it can occur in newborn babies and men too. Other symptoms of galactorrhea are random nipple leaking, breast tissue enlargement, irregular or missed period, lowered or loss of sex drive, acne, nausea, headaches, vision trouble, and unusual hair growth.
What Cause Leaky Breast In Non-pregnant Women
There are several causes of galactorrhea and it might be difficult to pinpoint an exact cause in many cases. The reason why a woman may lactate when she is not pregnant ranges from an imbalance of hormones to side effects of medication to other health issues.
The most common cause is an increase in the hormone, prolactin. The level of the brain produced prolactin can increase as a result of medications, tumor, nipples over-stimulation, and underlying health issues.
Here are some of the medications when taken may lead to galactorrhea.
- Birth control
- Pain killers
- Medications for heartburn
- Medication for blood pressure
- Medications with hormone content
The medical conditions that may make you have leaky breast without pregnancy includes;
- Thyroid issues
- Chronic stress
- Liver or kidney disease
- Hypothalamus tumor or diseases
- Elevated estrogen levels (in newborns)
- Breast tissue damage or trauma
- Chest nerve damage or surgery injury
- Deficiency of testosterone in men
Certain drugs can cause lactation, such as opiates, cocaine, marijuana. Let your doctor know if you have been taking any drugs, as it would help in diagnosing galactorrhea.
If your breast is stimulated often then that might be a triggering factor of galactorrhea. Stimulation can take place during sexual intercourse or when you self-examine your breasts frequently, or when your clothing rubs against your nipples. Adopting mothers who desire to breastfeed the child can increase their prolactin levels by pumping their breasts.
In some rare cases, women lactate when close to a baby that is unrelated to them, this is an emotionally induced response. A study showed a young adult woman who had type 1 diabetes and any tie she was close to a baby (unrelated), her nipple would discharge milk under slight pressure. This symptom only lasted as long as she was close to the baby. All the possible lactation biological cause was ruled out and it was believed that the lactation was emotionally induced.
Idiopathic galactorrhea is a condition or name given when the exact underlying galactorrhea cause cannot be determined. The breast of people with this type of galactorrhea might be excessively prolactin sensitive. This means that their breast can produce milk even when the hormone level is normal.
Diagnosis Of Galactorrhea
For adequate treatment to be given to stop leaky breasts, the specific cause has to be identified. The doctor in charge of your case would examine your history and can also order some tests to help determine the cause. Physical breast examination will also be done and some breast discharge will be taken to the lab for examination. Other tests that can be done include:
- Bloodwork to check the level of hormone
- Pregnancy test
- Ultrasound or mammogram to detect breast tissue changes
- MRI to check for pituitary gland issues or brain tumors
- Test for pregnancy to rule it out
Treatment For Galactorrhea
When the doctor can detect the cause then treatment will be recommended. There is some self-care treatment that you can do like not reducing nipple stimulation when having sex and not wearing tight clothing.
The doctor may advise you to switch to a different medication or using more medications to control your hormones. You may also have to stop taking antipsychotic medications, opiates, marijuana, and/or cocaine.
If the tumor was detected as the cause or maybe your pituitary gland has issues then surgery might be recommended.
We cannot control many of galactorrhea causes like tumors, medical conditions, or hormonal imbalance. But there are some preventive measures that you can take to lower the risk of lactating when not pregnant.
- Avoid wearing clothes or bras that can cause nipple irritation
- Do not stimulate your breast regularly
- Relieve stress healthily
Thankfully galactorrhea usually goes away itself or after the underlying cause has been treated. But if the nipple discharge looks clear, yellow, bloody, or not milky then it should be taken seriously. These may signify breast cancer. Other causes of discharge that should a source of concern are benign breast growth, tumors in pituitary glands, and Paget’s disease, an uncommon breast cancer form.
If for the past six months you have not been nursing or pregnant and yet you are experiencing leaky breasts then you should visit your doctor. If the cause of this discharge is a serious one, then it will be to your benefit if treatment is started earlier.