Prolactin Test : Prolactin levels, Purpose, Procedure, and Results
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Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland located in the brain. When a woman is pregnant or gives birth to an infant, their prolactin hormone levels rise. Milk starts forming in the breasts of women due to increased prolactin levels. It is possible to increase prolactin levels if you are not pregnant and even if you are male.
This hormone is necessary for reproductive health of both men and women. More or less the level of prolactin in a person’s blood can also affect his fertility. It is unclear what are the main functions of prolactin in men. However the prolactin test is used to measure sexual satisfaction in both men and women. Prolactin test can also be used to detect other problems caused by hormones.
After examining the level of prolactin in the blood sample, the doctor can suggest a possible cure for the problem.
What is a prolactin test?
This test gives information about the level of hormone called prolactin in the blood. With the help of a prolactin test, it is determined whether the level of prolactin in the blood is somewhere above or below normal.
Why a prolactin test is done
This test is used to detect and manage the following conditions:
- Pituitary adenoma (tumor in the pituitary gland)
- Epileptic seizures
- Erectile dysfunction (in men)
What is done before a prolactin test?
You do not need to do any special type of preparation before having a prolactin test. To get the test done, you have to give a sample of your blood to the lab or hospital.
Some birth control pills, high blood pressure, or medications that prevent depression may mess the prolactin test results. If you are taking any of these medicines, even if you are eating any type of medicines, the doctor should be told about this before getting tested. Increased stress, sleep problems or more rigorous exercise before the test can also affect test results.
How is a prolactin test done?
The prolactin test is performed like a normal blood test. This test is done in a hospital or laboratory and is done within a few minutes. To perform the test, a sample of blood is drawn from your vein, especially blood from your arm vein.
First of all where the sample is to be taken, The place is cleaned with antiseptic. The needle is then injected into the vein and the blood is filled into the syringe or vial attached to the needle. Some people feel a slight prick when injecting and some people feel a slight pain and later there may be a scar on the skin for some time.
You can have a prolactin test at any time during menstruation. Prolactin hormone levels vary throughout the day. However, prolactin levels are high during sleep or soon after waking up from sleep. So a prolactin test is usually done three to four hours after you wake up.
What is done after a prolactin test?
After drawing blood for the sample, a needle is removed from your vein and a piece of cotton or bandage is applied to that place. The doctor may also ask you to place a small pressure on the needle area for a while. No drastic exercise should be done immediately after drawing blood. If you feel pain, swelling or redness in the area where the needle was engaged, or if there is any liquid coming out from there, then immediately tell the doctor about it.
What does prolactin test result mean?
The normal amount of prolactin in the blood is:
- Male: 2 to 8 nanograms per ml (ng / mL)
- Women who are not pregnant: 2 to 29 nanograms per milliliter
- Pregnant women: 10 to 209 nanograms per milliliter
Higher than normal levels of prolactin in the blood –
If your prolactin level falls below the normal limit, it does not necessarily mean that you have some kind of problem. Your prolactin levels may increase if you eat something immediately before a test or if you are under extreme stress during the test.
Also, the normal range of prolactin levels may also vary according to different laboratories.
If your prolactin level is high (1000 times higher than normal) then it can be a sign of you having “prolactinoma”. Prolactinoma is a tumor in a pituitary gland, it is not cancerous and can be treated with drugs. In such a situation, the doctor may suggest you to have an MRI scan.
Decreased prolactin levels in the blood –
If your prolactin hormone levels have decreased below normal, it may mean that your pituitary gland is not functioning fully. This condition is called “hypopituitarism”. Low levels of prolactin usually do not require treatment.
There are also some medications that may lower prolactin levels, such as:
- Dopamine, these medicines are given to people suffering from shock.
- Levodopa, this medicine is used to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease.
- Ergot alkaloid derivatives, this drug is used to treat severe headaches.
When should a prolactin test be done?
If you feel any of the following symptoms, your doctor may suggest a prolactin test:
In women –
- Non-menstrual periods or irregular menstrual periods
- When you are not pregnant or not in the baby feeding period, then the fluid comes out from the breast.
- Pain in breast on touching (breast tenderness)
- Symptoms associated with menopause such as hot flash and vaginal dryness
In men –
- Decreased libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Pain on touching breasts, or Increase size
- Milk formation in the breast
Problems occurring in both men and women –
- Headache due to unknown cause
- Visual disturbances