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Prolactinoma

Definition: A prolactinoma is a benign tumor of the pituitary gland that produces an excess amount of prolactin, the hormone responsible for lactation and breast development. It is the most common type of functioning pituitary tumor.

Epidemiology:

  • More common in women than men.
  • Typically diagnosed in individuals aged 20-50 years.

Pathophysiology:

  • Prolactinomas are caused by prolactin-secreting cells in the anterior pituitary gland growing into a tumor.
  • High levels of prolactin caused by the tumor can lead to hypogonadism, galactorrhea, and infertility.

Clinical Presentation:

  • Women: Amenorrhea, galactorrhea (milk production not associated with childbirth or nursing), and infertility.
  • Men: Erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, gynecomastia, and infertility.
  • Both Genders: Headaches and visual disturbances due to tumor mass effect, if large enough (macroadenomas).

Diagnosis:

  • Blood Tests: Elevated serum prolactin levels are indicative of prolactinoma.
  • MRI of the Pituitary: The imaging modality of choice for tumor visualization.
  • Vision Tests: Visual field testing if the tumor is large and compressing the optic chiasm.

Management:

  • Medical Treatment: First-line treatment usually involves dopamine agonists (e.g., cabergoline, bromocriptine) which decrease prolactin production and can reduce tumor size.
  • Surgery: Indicated for drug-resistant tumors or those causing neurological symptoms due to compression.
  • Radiation Therapy: May be considered if surgery and medication are not effective.

Complications:

  • If untreated, can lead to significant morbidity from the effects of excess prolactin and mass effect of the tumor.
  • Persistent hyperprolactinemia can also contribute to osteoporosis.

Prognosis:

  • Generally good with treatment; most tumors respond well to medical therapy.
  • Regular monitoring of prolactin levels and MRI is necessary to assess response to treatment and early detection of recurrence.

Prevention:

  • No known preventive measures as the exact cause of prolactinomas is not fully understood.

Conclusion: Prolactinomas, while benign, can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life due to hormonal imbalances and their physical growth. An understanding of the clinical manifestations, diagnostic process, and management options is essential for the effective treatment and long-term management of patients with this condition.

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