Leaking from the breast when you are neither pregnant nor nursing, galactorrhea, is is a not uncommon phenomenon in women, and is particularly frequent in women going through puberty or menopause. The fluid leaking is almost always related to milk, but can vary greatly in colour and consistency. Although it is quite rare, men can also suffer from galactorrhea.
Galactorrhea is not fully understood, and can be caused many different factors. It is most often related to over-production of the hormone prolactin, but there are several other possibilities as well. It is generally an innocuous condition that passes with time or lifestyle change, but certain types of galactorrhea can be signs of more serious medical problems.
Potential causes and concerns of leaking breasts
Leaking breasts are generally caused by over-production of the female hormone prolactin, which is usually only highly stimulated during late-stage pregnancy and nursing, but there are many possible causes for prolactin over-production.
- Some medicines, like hormones, birth control pills, antidepressants, and blood pressure medicine - Herbal medicines, such as nettle, fennel, blessed thistle, anise, and fenugreek seed - Street drugs, like marijuana and opiates - Hormone imbalances - Clothes that irritate the breasts, like scratchy shirts or bras that don't fit well - Too frequent breast self-exams (daily exams) - Stimulating the breasts during sex - Tumours of the pituitary (say: pih-too-ih-terry) gland in the brain. These tumours are rare. They usually are not serious. - In newborn babies, hormones from the mother are passed on to the baby during birth. - Thyroid disease - Kidney failure
While the large majority of leakage is just milk-like substances, if your breasts start to leak a clear egg-white-like fluid or a bloody fluid, see your doctor as as soon as possible. You should also see your doctor if you consistently just have discharge from one breast or if you have spontaneous discharge (discharge without massage or squeezing).
After you have eliminated physical stimulation of the breasts as a cause, the next things to try are changing your medications, diet, and exercise patterns. Galactorrhea can be caused by some types of tumours. Most tumours that cause galactorrhea are not cancerous. They can usually can be treated with medicine, and surgery is rarely necessary.