Hyperprolactinemia and weight gain

What's Inside?

What does the prolactin hormone do?

Prolactin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland and is controlled by the hypothalamus. The most important function of prolactin is inducing and maintaining lactation in breastfeeding mothers. It is also responsible for breast growth and stimulating immune responsiveness. Prolactin is also said to affect fatty tissues and metabolic function of the body.

What is Hyperprolactinemia?

When the levels of the hormone prolactin in the body is elevated, the condition is known as hyperprolactinemia. Prolactin levels are normally raised in pregnant or breast-feeding women and is not a cause of concern in such cases. The presence of harmless tumours in the brain may also lead to elevated levels of prolactin. Stress could also be responsible for hyperprolactinemia. Certain medications containing antipsychotic agents, antidepressants, and drugs that increase bowel movements may cause hyperprolactinemia.

Elevated levels of prolactin may come with several visible symptoms or be completely asymptomatic. The severity of symptoms varies from one individual to another and also with the magnitude of excess prolactin. 

How is prolactin related to weight gain?

It is also said to cause a reduction in the ability of fatty tissue to store fat and sugar which may then be deposited in the blood and tissues, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. A combination of factors like decreased dopaminergic tone, low adiponectin, hypogonadism with or without associated leptin resistance could contribute to weight gain.

Your body’s ability to maintain a balanced metabolism is also impaired affected by prolactin. 

How do I know if I should get myself tested?

Hyperprolactinemia is found to be common among women ( 9% – 17%) with other reproductive issues. It is also commonly associated with hypothyroidism.
If you have been experiencing any of the following symptom, it is possible that you might have hyperprolactinemia:

How is a Prolactin test helpful?

  • Prolactin levels between 5 and 25 ng/ml are considered normal for non-pregnant women.
  • A prolactin level of more than 250 ng/ml may be an indication of prolactinoma, which is the presence of a non-cancerous tumour in the brain.
  • Serum prolactin tests should ideally be taken in fasting in the morning.
  • It is likely that the value would be higher for someone who has had a history of drug intake, renal disease, chest wall surgery, trauma or seizure within 1-2 hours.