Some occasional discharge from your nipples is normal and not necessarily indicative of disease. Sometimes galactorrhea is a result of sensitivity of your breasts to lactin, the hormone that stimulates the production of milk. Sometimes it may be caused by medication. It's always a good idea to check with your doctor.
Discharge Caused by Different Conditions
Healthy women of various ages occasionally experience breast secretions. Depending on the nature of the discharge and your general health status, these secretions may be benign, or harmless, or sometimes signs of disease. If your nipples are stimulated frequently, by clothing or sexual contact, this can often cause some breast discharge.
Sometimes a nipple discharge is an early sign of pregnancy, if you have been having intercourse. If any nipple discharge is worrisome, you need to have it examined and evaluated by a gynecologist who can perform a clinical breast exam.
Treatment for Galactorrhea
If you experience discharge of a milky substance from one or both breasts not associated with breast feeding after childbirth, it may be just a temporary reaction to certain drugs or to tight clothing that irritates the nipples. In other cases, however, such discharge—known as galactorrhea—is symptomatic of a benign pituitary tumor. If it is a small tumor, it can be treated with bromocriptine.
If the tumor is larger and unresponsive to therapeutic drugs, surgery on the gland, located near the base of the brain, can remove it. If both medications and surgery fail to remove the tumor, it can be shrunken with radiation therapy.
When to Call Your Doctor
A non-milky nipple discharge, especially if it is clear, bloody or yellow and coming from just one breast, needs urgent medical attention because it could be a sign of breast cancer.
If you experience a recurrent milky discharge from one or both breasts and you are not breast feeding or pregnant, you should see your doctor. If breast stimulation causes nipple discharge, it probably is not a sign of breast cancer but you should still see your physician.
Possible Causes of Discharge
Some causes of galactorrhea include medications such as birth control pills, antidepressants, tranquilizers, hypertension drugs, pain killers and herbal remedies such as blessed thistle, fenugreek seed, anise or nettle. Certain street drugs like marijuana or opiates can also cause nipple discharge.
Thyroid imbalances, chronic stress, kidney failure, and excessive stimulation of the breast can also cause the condition. Chest wall injuries from surgery, burns, tumors and shingles are also common causes of galactorrhea.
How to Avoid Galactorrhea
Suggestions for reducing your risk of galactorrhea include not wearing clothing, such as wool. that irritates your breasts; avoid excessive sexual stimulation of your nipples; eschew illegal street drugs; and perform a breast self-exam no more frequently than monthly. Speak to your doctor about possible substitutes for medications you take that may cause galactorrhea.