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There are many causes of erectile dysfunction (ED), from being overweight to smoking or from stress to high blood pressure. However, one cause that does not often get talked about is having high levels of prolactin.

To find out more, read on.

What is Prolactin?

Prolactin is a hormone that is produced by the body during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, it is possible to have high levels if you are a woman who is neither carrying a child or nursing and even if you are a man.

According to Web MD, males tend to have between two and 18 nanograms per millilitre (ng/mL) of prolactin, while a pregnant female has ten to 209 ng/mL. Therefore, if you exceed the normal amount of a man, this could be a sign there is a problem with your hormones.

What are the signs of high prolactin levels?

It is easier for women to determine if they have high prolactin levels, as they might experience irregular periods or breast milk discharge. However, men should look out for a decreased sex drive, breast tenderness or enlargement, and even milk production.

One of the most telling signs of a hormone imbalance is difficulty getting an erection, with high prolactin levels a major cause of ED.

What causes high levels of Prolactin?

If a blood test determines you have high levels of prolactin, your doctor might carry out further tests to determine the cause. It could be due to excessive dieting or exercise, a chest injury, kidney disease, liver failure, types of medication you are taking, such as anti-depressants, or diseases that affect the hypothalamus.

It could also be due to having a condition called Prolactinoma, which is a benign tumour in the pituitary gland that causes the production of too much hormone. An MRI will be able to take a picture of the pituitary gland and determine whether prolactinoma is the problem.

Treatments for Prolactinoma

Patients who present with prolactinoma need not worry as there are several different types of treatment for the condition. For instance, Web MD revealed drugs can decrease the size of the tumour in 80 per cent of cases, reducing the amount of prolactin released.

A study entitled Hyperprolactinemia and Erectile Dysfunction, published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, stated: “Treatment consists of lowering the prolactin level by medication or surgery, or both. Bromocriptine, a dopamine agonist, is efficacious in lowering elevated prolactin levels and can simultaneously shrink these pituitary tumours.”

Larger tumours might need to be taken out by transsphenoidal surgery, which is the removal of the mass through the nose.

In the rare incidences where this is unsuccessful, radiation therapy is another option, with this working for a third of patients.

The case for prolactin-caused-ED is so compelling that a study by researchers at Queen’s University, Kingston General Hospital, Ontario, Canada, argued that routine prolactin measurement should be conducted in the initial evaluation of all ED cases.

It concluded: “Early detection of a potentially serious and treatable disease may afford greater therapeutic success.”

Other medications that can help sufferers of ED include the likes of Spedra, Champix, and Sildenafil tablets.