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Prolactin is one of many hormones produced by the pituitary gland. It is primarily responsible for milk production during lactation. In most women, hyperprolactinemia has a benign clinical course. Clinical presentation in women is more obvious and occurs earlier than in men.
The pituitary's hormone production rises and falls depending on hormonal instructions from another gland, the hypothalamus. In the case of most pituitary hormones, including FSH and LH, the presence of hypothalamic hormones signals the pituitary to increase production. For prolactin, however, the signal works in reverse: An increase in the hypothalamic hormone dopamine tells the pituitary to stop releasing prolactin. In some cases, however, the dopamine cannot reach the pituitary gland by passing through the veins of the pituitary stalk. When that happens, there's no signal to suppress the secretion of prolactin, and the pituitary continues to release prolactin.
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Adenoma: An ordinarily benign growth of epithelial tissue in which the tumor cells form glands or gland-like structures that tend to exhibit glandular function.
Benign: Literally: innocent; not malignant. Often used to refer to cells that are not cancerous.
Dopamine: A neurohormone; precursor to norepinephrine which acts as a stimulant to the nervous system.
Estrogen: One of the female sex hormones produced by the ovaries.
Galactorrhea: Galactorrhea is inappropriate lactation in the woman who is not pregnant or has not recently given birth. It can be unilateral or bilateral.
Hormones: Chemical substances secreted by a variety of body organs that are carried by the bloodstream and usually influence cells some distance from the source of production. Hormones signal certain enzymes to perform their functions and, in this way, regulate such body functions as blood sugar levels, insulin levels, the menstrual cycle, and growth. These can be prescription, over-the-counter, synthetic or natural agents. Examples include adrenal hormones such as corticosteroids and aldosterone; glucagon, growth hormone, insulin, testosterone, estrogens, progestins, progesterone, DHEA, melatonin, and thyroid hormones such as thyroxine and calcitonin.
Hypothalamus: An important supervisory center in the brain regulating many body functions. Despite its importance in maintaining homeostasis, the hypothalamus in humans accounts for only 1/300 of total brain weight, and is about the size of an almond.
Hypothyroidism: Diminished production of thyroid hormone, leading to low metabolic rate, tendency to gain weight, and sleepiness.
Idiopathic: Arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause.
Lactation: Production of milk; period after giving birth during which milk is secreted in the breasts.
ng: Nanogram: 0.000000001 or a billionth of a gram.
Pituitary: The pituitary gland is small and bean-shaped, located below the brain in the skull base very near the hypothalamus. Weighing less than one gram, the pituitary gland is often called the "master gland" since it controls the secretion of hormones by other endocrine glands.
Premenstrual Syndrome: PMS consists of various physical and/or emotional symptoms that occur in the second half of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation. The symptoms begin about midcycle, are generally the most intense during the last seven days before menstruation and include: acne; backache; bloating; fatigue; headache; sore breasts; changes in sexual desire; depression; difficulty concentrating; difficulty handling stress; irritability; tearfulness.
Prolactin: An anterior pituitary peptide hormone that initiates and maintains lactation.
Testosterone: The principal male sex hormone that induces and maintains the changes that take place in males at puberty. In men, the testicles continue to produce testosterone throughout life, though there is some decline with age. A naturally occurring androgenic hormone.
Thyroid: Thyroid Gland: An organ with many veins. It is at the front of the neck. It is essential to normal body growth in infancy and childhood. It releases thyroid hormones - iodine-containing compounds that increase the rate of metabolism, affect body temperature, regulate protein, fat, and carbohydrate catabolism in all cells. They keep up growth hormone release, skeletal maturation, and heart rate, force, and output. They promote central nervous system growth, stimulate the making of many enzymes, and are necessary for muscle tone and vigor.
Thyrotoxicosis: Also known as Graves' disease, is a disorder of excess thyroid hormone production. It is usually linked to an enlarged thyroid gland and bulging eyes (exophthalmos).