What is Bromocriptine?

D. Jeffress

Bromocriptine is an oral medication used to treat a number of different conditions. It is most commonly given to help regulate menstrual cycles and breast milk production in female patients. The drug is also used to ease symptoms of Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes, and pituitary gland disorders. Bromocriptine is available by prescription only, and it is important to use the drug exactly as directed by a doctor to achieve the maximum effects and prevent adverse reactions.

Bromocriptine is often used to help regulate breast milk production.
Bromocriptine is often used to help regulate breast milk production.

Clinical research shows that bromocriptine works by increasing the amount of available dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate central nervous system activity as well as the production of many different hormones. One particular hormone secreted by the pituitary gland called prolactin is involved in producing breast milk and controlling menstruation. Overproduction of prolactin can lead to many problems, including infertility. The extra dopamine triggered by the medication slows or stops the production of prolactin.

Bromocriptine is used to ease the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Bromocriptine is used to ease the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Other pituitary gland problems are responsive to bromocriptine as well. A genetic condition called acromegaly, which involves overproduction of growth hormone, can be regulated with daily medication use in a majority of patients. Cancerous tumors that cause an influx of hormones are often treated with a combination of bromocriptine, chemotherapy drugs, and surgery.

Bromocriptine works by increasing the amount of available dopamine in the brain.
Bromocriptine works by increasing the amount of available dopamine in the brain.

Increased dopamine levels can also improve nervous system functioning in patients with Parkinson's disease. Bromocriptine calms nerve responses to reduce tremors and give people better control over motor movements. In addition, blood sugar levels are better regulated in patients with diabetes when dopamine is abundant.

Many potentially serious side effects are associated with the drug. A patient may experience sudden dizziness and drowsiness within minutes of taking a dose. Nausea, vomiting, weakness, mental confusion, and headaches may also occur. Some people experience numbness or tingling sensations in their extremities, chest pains, shortness of breath, and blurred vision. Occasionally, bromocriptine can induce seizures or cause a person to lose consciousness. It is essential to seek medical help whenever major side effects occur to prevent life-threatening complications.

Patients who are taking bromocriptine are usually scheduled for regular checkups with their physicians. A doctor can monitor the success of treatment and determine if dosage amounts need to be adjusted. In most cases, a working dose is quickly established and can be maintained throughout the course of treatment. Most of the disorders that the drug is used to treat cannot be cured, so patients usually need to continue to take their daily medications indefinitely.

Loss of consciousness is a serious, but less common side effect of bromocriptine.
Loss of consciousness is a serious, but less common side effect of bromocriptine.

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