Prolactin Test (PRL)


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What is Prolactin?

Prolactin or PRL is a lactogenic hormone produced to induce milk production in lactating mothers. The hormone is produced by the pituitary gland that is located just below the brain.

The hormone is stimulated by the suckling of breasts by the new-born baby. The pituitary glands of the nursing mother release more prolactin that improves the production of milk in the body. Thus, if a mother does not breastfeed her baby, the prolactin levels will eventually return to its normal levels.

Where is the prolactin hormone secreted?

Prolactin is produced by the anterior pituitary gland and by other parts of the body such as:

– Adipose tissues
– Uterus
– Breasts
– Skin
– Prostate

The lactotroph cells present in the pituitary gland produces prolactin. The gland stores the hormone which is later released into the blood.

What are the alternative names of Prolactin?

Prolactin also is known as ‘milk hormone’ or PRL has other names such as LTH or luteotropic hormone.

What is a Prolactin test?

The Prolactin levels are high in lactating mothers, but it can increase even in nonpregnant women or men due to several medical conditions. A Prolactin or PRL test helps to measure the amount of the hormone Prolactin in your blood.

The test will help to diagnose and investigate these underlying medical conditions and make assessments based on the results. The Prolactin test is done along with other hormonal tests to ascertain the specific cause of your medical condition.

When do I need a Prolactin test?

In women, doctors may ask you to do the Prolactin test if they suspect you are suffering from a condition called prolactinoma or a noncancerous tumor that develops due to the overproduction of the hormone. Symptoms include:

– Impairment of vision.
– Galactorrhea or a condition where nonpregnant women lactate.
Excessive acne.
– Abnormal growth of hair in the body or facial hair.
– Pain and discomfort while having sex.

Women can also be tested for Prolactin levels if they have:

Irregularity in periods or no periods.
– Pituitary disorders or Hypothalamus disorders
Polycystic ovarian syndrome.
– Dysfunction of the adrenal gland.

Men can be tested for Prolactin levels if they exhibit symptoms of prolactinoma such as:

– Disturbance in vision.
– Fertility problems.
– Diminished sex drive.
Erectile dysfunction.

The test can also be done in men if they suffer from the following conditions:

– Testicular dysfunction.
– Lack of facial hair or body hair.
– Enlargement or tenderness of breasts.
– Galactorrhea or a very rare condition where men’s breasts produce milk.
Low testosterone levels.

Prolactin levels can also be checked in men and women due to the following conditions like:

– Irritation or chest injury.
– Use of antidepressants or certain medications to treat high blood pressure or psychosis.
– Kidney disease.
– Liver failure.

How do I prepare myself for the test?

A Prolactin test is a normal blood test and does not require any specific preparation. However, since the level of Prolactin varies throughout the day and is highest during the early morning, the sample is usually collected 3 to 4 hours after a person wakes up. Patients need to inform their doctor or health care provider if they are under certain medications such as:

– Birth control pills.
– Drugs for high blood pressure.
– If you are suffering from anxiety, sleep disorder, or stress, this can also affect your Prolactin levels and must be informed to the doctor in advance.

How is the Prolactin test done?

The Prolactin test is just like a blood test and is very simple. Your technician will collect the blood sample within three to four hours after you wake up from your sleep.

– Blood is withdrawn from the vein of your arm.

– You will be required to wear a short-sleeved top or a loose t-shirt. This will help the technician to withdraw the blood.

– A small patch of skin on your arm will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution.

– A tourniquet or an elastic band is tied around the upper arm. This will swell up your vein and make it more visible.

– Your technician will insert the needle into the vein and withdraw the blood sample into a vial or a syringe.

– The blood is stored in the vial or syringe and will be sent to the laboratory for examination.

After the procedure, the needle is removed. The tourniquet is also removed and a cotton swab or a bandage is put on the spot to stop bleeding.

How will I feel during the test?

You will feel little or no pain during the test and only a stinging sensation that will last for a few minutes. There will be mild bruising which will go away within a day or two.

When will I get my test result?

You will get your test result within a day or two.

What are the risks of the procedure?

The Prolactin test is a very safe procedure and there are usually no risks. However, certain people may experience symptoms or side effects during or after the test such as:

– Persistent bleeding from the area of the puncture site.
– Feeling of lightheadedness.
Hematoma or accumulation of blood in and around the area of the puncture site.
– Infection in the area.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you may consult your doctor immediately.

Is it safe for my child to have a Prolactin test?

Yes, it is completely safe for your child to have a Prolactin test. You can accompany your child during the procedure and make him feel comfortable as much as you can. Tell your child to relax especially if he is afraid of needles. Talk to your technician, if your child is feeling extremely anxious or have any medical condition.

How long will it take to have a Prolactin test?

The Prolactin test will only take a few minutes.

What is the cost of the Prolactin test in India?

The average cost of the Prolactin test in India can vary between INR 300 to INR 500 depending upon the laboratory conducting the test, city, and lab facilities available.

What is the normal range of Prolactin?

The chart below shows the normal range of Prolactin in pregnant females, nonpregnant women, and men.

Type Range (nanograms/milliliter or ng/mL)
Pregnant Women 10-209ng/mL
Nonpregnant Women 2-29 ng/mL
Men 2-18 ng/mL

The above chart shows the normal range of Prolactin in healthy people. However, the results may vary slightly depending upon the laboratory conducting the test and other factors. Based on the normal range, your doctor will assess your test report and chalk out a treatment plan.

What does a high level of Prolactin indicate?

High levels of Prolactin are defined by a condition called hyperprolactinemia. However, it is normal to have high levels of Prolactin during pregnancy and after childbirth. High levels of Prolactin can be caused by conditions such as:

– Liver disease.
– Anorexia nervosa.
– Kidney disease.
– Pituitary tumors.
– Chest trauma.
– Low blood pressure.

What does low prolactin level indicate?

Low levels of Prolactin or hyperprolactinemia is caused due to the under-activity of the pituitary gland and decreases the production of the hormone. Hyperprolactinemia can decrease the amount of milk production in nursing mothers. The low levels of Prolactin are not caused by any specific medical condition and do not necessarily pose any major harm to the body.

Can high levels of prolactin lead to infertility?

Yes, high Prolactin levels can lead to infertility. High levels of the hormone can cause hypopituitarism, a condition that causes low sex drive and lack of body hair in men and in women it can cause infertility. Hypopituitarism is caused by prolactinoma tumors which are caused due to high levels of Prolactin.

In women, elevated Prolactin levels can cause hyperprolactinemia. The body fails to produce the normal levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones which results in infertility. In such cases, the body completely stops or fails to release eggs from the ovaries which causes infertility.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you are recommended to seek the immediate advice of your doctor. In the case of enlargement of pituitary glands, hormone replacement therapy is recommended. Doctors may suggest surgery for the removal of prolactinoma tumors or medication to reduce them.

How to treat high prolactin levels?

Your doctor may suggest dopamine agonists and medications that may shrink the size of your prolactinoma tumors or help in controlling the prolactin levels. If medications are not working, doctors may also suggest radiotherapy for treating high Prolactin levels. Doctors can also recommend an MRI or CT scan. You can also regulate your prolactin level by:

Avoiding stress.
– Controlling your diet.
– Avoiding high-intensity exercises.
– Wearing loose-fitted clothes.
– Take vitamin B-6 and vitamin E supplements.

Want to live a healthy lifestyle?

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