The pituitary gland is a rather small gland that is located right below the brain. There are a number of hormones that are produced by it which enter into the blood and play a major role in controlling the various functions of the body. Prolactin is one such hormone that is produced by this gland, the levels of which are controlled by dopamine. Prolactin is normally low in level in men and women and plays a primary role in the production of breast milk also known as lactation. These levels are generally high during pregnancy and even after childbirth. Prolactin is very important after a child is born as it helps in supply of breast milk and also maintains the same.
Prolactin testing is done to check the reason for a woman not able to produce breast milk after giving birth, to find out the cause of any unusual discharge that is coming out of the nipples or in case a woman is suffering from amenorrhea where in she is not getting her periods or to find out why she is not able to conceive. A prolactin test may be ordered for men incase they are not able to arouse themselves sexually and also to detect the presence of any tumors that are being produced by the pituitary gland.
You may be asked by your doctor not to eat or drink anything a few hours before undergoing the test. Any kind of stress whether physical or mental, nervousness and even an illness or surgery can cause the levels of prolactin to increase and therefore, you need to stay calm and composed at least half an hour before the test. Nipples that are stimulated can also lead to high prolactin levels and thus, a woman should not indulge in doing anything that will lead to the nipples being stimulated.
The test is conducted by taking a sample of your blood from your vein with the help of a syringe. This process barely takes a few seconds unless the doctor has a difficulty in finding the vein. Elevated prolactin levels indicate that there is a tumor and it is known as prolactinoma. However, low levels of prolactin levels do not mean that there is no tumor. Hence, it is essential to constantly monitor prolactin levels and to undergo a MRI test if you even slightly suspect a tumor.