Prolactin (PRL)

Clinical definition of the prolactin test
Prolactin is a hormone released by the posterior pituitary gland and is primarily associated with lactation. Prolactin test measures the amount of prolactin in the blood. It stimulates breast development and milk production in women. There is no known normal function of prolactin in men. Prolactin levels are used to determine:

  • The cause of galactorrhea (milky or clear white discharge from breasts of non pregnant/lactating women)
  • The cause of headaches and visual disturbances
  • Determine infertility and erectile dysfunction in men.
  • For Diagnoses of infertility in females
  • To Diagnose and Evaluate anterior pituitary gland function (along with other hormones)
  • In cases of failed lactation

Why is the Prolactin test done?

  • The prolactin test measures the amount of prolactin in the blood, to check if prolactin levels are higher than normal, to monitor the progress of pituitary tumors, prolactinoma recurrence and to find the cause of:
  • Breast milk production that is not related to childbirth (Galactorrhea)
  • Impotence
  • Infertility
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Prolactin levels are also often ordered in men as a follow-up to a low testosterone level.

What are the common signs/symptoms when the prolactin test is done?
Symptoms can be caused by the growth of the tumor and/or by the hormones produced by the tumor
Too much prolactin may cause:

  • Headache
  • Some loss of vision
  • Less frequent or no menstrual periods or menstrual periods with a very light flow.(Scanty/Irregular menses)
  • Trouble becoming pregnant or an inability to become pregnant
  • Impotence in men
  • Lower sex drive
  • Flow of breast milk in a woman who is not pregnant or breast-feeding
  • Delay in puberty
  • Decrease libido in men
  • Decrease fertility
  • Erectile dysnfunction in men

Too little prolactin results in the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Loss of body hair (seen more routinely along with thyroid dysfunction)
  • In women, less frequent or no menstrual periods or no milk from the breasts
  • In men, loss of facial hair, growth of breast tissue, and impotence
  • In women and men, lower sex drive
  • In children, slowed growth and sexual development
  • In patients of PCOD/PCOS

What should I do before the prolactin test?

Specimen type

Specimen collection procedure

Preparatory instructions before the test *

Serum (Blood Sample)

Venipuncture

Collection of blood from a vein, usually from the arm

The sample should be collected 3 to 4 hours after waking, ideally before noon as prolactin levels are routinely high in the evening due to cicardian rhythm.

No Fasting Required.

No other special preparations required.

 

Subjects suffering from any illness or on oral or injectable medications are advised to consult their physician prior to requesting any tests or procedures.

How do I interpret my prolactin test results?

Gender

Reference Range*

 

Male

2.1 to 17.7 ng/ml

 

Female-  Postmenopausal

1.8-20.3 ng/ml

 

Non pregnant

2.8 - 29.2 ng/ml

 

Pregnant

9.7 – 208.5 ng/ml

 

Children

Boy

Girl

 

8-15 days 

45-254

54-326

 

1-3 years   

7.7-49

4.9-67

 

4-6 years   

2.8-12.8

3.1-11.2

 

7-8 years   

2.7-18.2

3.3-14.9

 

9-10 years  

4.5-12.9

3.4-22.0

 

11 years     

2.6-15.0

3.6-27.0

 

12 years      

3,9-13.2

3.2-15.0

 

13 years     

3.6-17.6

4.9-18.5

 

14 years      

4.4-14.2    

3.6-26

15 years     

4.7-17.9     

4.9-19.1

16 years      

3.4-13.5     

3.1-17.9

17 years      

2.5-14.8     

3.3-15.8

18-19 years  

7.2-15.5     

7.8-33.0

‘*A Reference range is a set of values which helps the healthcare professional to interpret a medical test. It may vary with age, gender, and other factors. Reference ranges may also vary between labs, in value & units depending on instruments used and method of establishment of reference ranges’

Diseases/conditions related to the prolactin test

  • Hypogonadism
  • Hypothalamic disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Kidney disease
  • Pituitary tumor that makes prolactin (prolactinoma)
  • Hypopituitarism.
  • Prolactinoma

Other tests related to the prolactin test

  • FSH 
  • LH
  • Testosterone 
  • DHEAS
  • Estrogen 
  • Progesterone
  • TSH/ free T3, freeT4

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Prolactin

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