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What is Galactorrhea?


Updated May 12, 2008

Question: What is Galactorrhea?
Answer: Galactorrhea, a type of nipple discharge, is the spontaneous flow of milk from one or both breasts, which is not associated with pregnancy or breastfeeding. Other types of nipple discharge may occur when the discharge from the nipple is not milk. Both males and females can experience galactorrhea, as well as other types of nipple discharge.

Sometimes newborns, of both sexes, have galactorrhea due to the hormones produced by the mother during pregnancy. You may have heard newborn galactorrhea called “Witch’s milk.” Fortunately, newborn galactorrhea usually subsides within two months.

Possible causes of galactorrhea, or other types of nipple discharge include:

  • Certain drugs including oral contraceptives, Cimetidine, Methyldopa, Metoclopramide, phenothiazines, Reserpine, tricyclic antidepressants, and Verapamil.
  • A benign tumor of the pituitary gland called prolactinoma.
  • A benign tumor of the breast duct called an intraductal papilloma. The type of nipple discharge produced by an intraductal papilloma is straw-colored and is not milk or milk-like.
  • Mammary duct ectasia which occurs when a milk duct fills with fluid and widens which causes the blocking of the duct with a thick and sticky fluid.
  • Mastitis or a breast infection that occurs most often in breastfeeding women.
  • Breast trauma may also cause abnormal nipple discharge.

Women who have given birth make up the largest group affected by galactorrhea. However, galactorrhea can occur in women who’ve never given birth, and sometimes in men. While galactorrhea in women who have been pregnant may be normal, anytime you experience abnormal nipple discharge see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

See also: Nipple Problems


Nipple discharge – abnormal; MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003154.htm; accessed 05/07/08.

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