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Alternative Names Return to topDischarge from breasts; Milk secretions; Lactation - abnormal; Witches milk; Galactorrhea
Definition Return to top
Abnormal nipple discharge is abnormal fluid leakage from one or both nipples of the breast.
Considerations Return to top
The likelihood of nipple discharge increases with age and number of pregnancies.
While a milky nipple discharge is rare in men and in women who have never been pregnant, it does occur. When it does, it is likely to be caused by some underlying disease, particularly when accompanied by other changes in the breast(s).
It is relatively common in women who have had at least one pregnancy. A thin yellowish or milky discharge (colostrum) is normal in the final weeks of pregnancy.
The nature of the discharge can range in color, consistency, composition, and may occur on one side or both sides.
"Witch's milk" is a term used to describe nipple discharge in a newborn. The discharge is a temporary response to the increased levels of maternal hormones. Witch's milk should disappear within 2 weeks as hormone levels dissipate in the newborn.
Other nipple discharges can be bloody or purulent (containing pus), depending on the cause.
Causes Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you have any abnormal nipple discharge.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
The doctor will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:
Laboratory tests may be done to check prolactin and thyroid levels and to study the cells in the nipple discharge. Other tests that may be done include:
References Return to top
Galactorrhea. In: Ferri FF. Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2008: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment. 1st ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2008.Update Date: 5/26/2008 Updated by: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine; Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.