What are the treatment options for endometriosis?

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Endometriosis is uterine tissue that lies outside the uterus, which grows and degrades with the menstrual cycle just like the normal uterine lining. Ovarian hormones, such as those found in birth control pills, interrupt this cycle and prevent the tissues from swelling and bleeding. This will often greatly reduce the pain of endometriosis.

Endometriosis may be treated with medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the pain. Also, there are several hormonal treatment options, some of which have the added benefit of contraception, if so desired.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Despite the painful symptoms and difficult diagnosis associated with endometriosis, the bottom line is that it is a very treatable condition—something no woman should have to suffer through. Treatment varies depending on the severity of symptoms and what stage of life you are in (i.e., if you still wish to have children). Some options include hormonal therapy, pain treatment, nutritional therapy and even surgery. Since the best line of treatment varies drastically from patient to patient, my best advice is to have an open conversation with your doctor. Do a little research ahead of time to familiarize yourself with all the treatment options and spend some time thinking about what you prioritize in a treatment (i.e., whether you would prefer to improve fertility, take a more natural approach, take a more permanent solution, etc.).

Dr. Margaret H. Smith, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

If medical management is not enough to treat endometriosis, your doctor may recommend surgery. In this video, OBGYN Maggie Smith, MD, of Kansas City Women’s Clinic, explains how robot-assisted surgery is used to treat endometriosis.

Dr. Darcy N. Bryan, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Endometriosis is frequently treated initially with hormonal supression. In this video, Darcy Bryan, MD, of Riverside Community Hospital, give some examples of typical treatments for endometriosis.

Dr. Kord T. Strebel, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

New surgical techniques are helping doctors treat endometriosis, says Kord Strebel, MD, an OB/GYN at Sunrise Hospital. In this video, he describes a new procedure that allows doctors to remove more adhesions and preserve fertility.

Dr. Edmond E. Pack, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Doctors treat endometriosis by locating the growth of the tissue and removing it, says Edmond Pack, MD, an OB/GYN at Southern Hills Hospital. In this video, he discusses how much tissue should be removed.

Dr. Mary Olender, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

There is no cure for endometriosis, but there are treatment options available to help manage symptoms, suggests Mary Olender, MD of West Hills Hospital and Medical Center. Watch this video to learn more.

There are several treatment options available for endometriosis, says Jessica Ritch, MD, Gynecologist at Aventura Hospital & Medical Center. Learn more about treatment in this video.

Because endometriosis is a chronic disease, treatment is aimed at managing symptoms. There’s no magic bullet for curing endometriosis. Treatment is dependent on symptoms and usually requires a combination of surgical intervention and medical management to remove the endometriosis and prevent it from coming back.

Medication can include anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen; however, managing endometriosis medically usually requires hormone treatment. Birth control pills are most often prescribed. In addition to suppressing the hormones that promote the growth of endometrial cells, birth control pills can have other benefits. Women who take birth control pills for five or more years have a decreased risk of ovarian cancer. Lupron Depot is a hormone injection that is also effective in shutting down the ovaries to prevent estrogen from fueling the growth of cells.

Dr. Kristine A. Borrison, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Endometriosis treatment starts with surgery and a biopsy to definitively diagnose the condition. In this video, gynecologist Kristine Borrison, MD, of Good Samaritan Hospital explains next steps for endometriosis treatment.

Depending on a woman's age and the severity of the condition, treatment options for endometriosis may include medication, surgery or both. Endometriosis cannot be cured, but it can be managed. 

Pain medications, like over-the-counter pain relievers or stronger prescription medications like opioids, are sometimes used to manage mild pain. Hormone therapy may help slow the growth of endometrial tissue and prevent new lesions from growing. Birth control, progesterone, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists and intrauterine devices can be used as part of a long-term care plan, but many are not specifically indicated for the treatment of endometriosis.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can often help relieve endometriosis pain. But, if you are still experiencing painful symptoms your doctor may want to try more serious treatments. These treatments include different hormone therapies to deter menstrual swelling. Your doctor may simply take out the endometrial tissue or perform a hysterectomy, in which the uterus is removed entirely.

Dr. Monica M. Diaz, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

In the treatment of endometriosis surveillance is always important. Once you've begun medical therapy for endometriosis, there should be surveillance of how you are doing, that your symptoms continue to be controlled, and that your priorities are being met. If it's pain control, and as time goes by the severity of the pain is not worsening, then the current medical modality that you're using is continuing to work. At the point that it is no longer effective, then there can always be a change in the medication therapy. For instance, if you start with birth control pill and that's no longer controlling your pain, you can try a continuous birth control pill.

If that's not working, you can always switch to perhaps an injectable progestational agent, such as Depo-Provera. If you get to a point where that perhaps is not as effective, then you could switch to something like a GnRH agonist, which is an injectable medication that suppresses hormone production and thereby suppresses the endometriosis.

When medications are failing, whether you've tried one medication or multiple medications, the definitive gold standard for diagnosis of endometriosis is to identify it visually, but also biopsying and having histopathology confirmation that you are dealing with endometrial glands and stroma outside the uterus. If medication is not working, then your doctor may consider a diagnostic evaluation for endometriosis. In that same process, areas of endometriosis that are found can be surgically removed.

Continue Learning about Endometriosis

Endometriosis

Are you one of seven million women in the United States with endometriosis? If so, you may also be struggling with infertility. Endometriosis is a female reproductive disorder characterized by pelvic pain, inflammation and vaginal ...

bleeding. This painful condition can affect any female of menstruating age, although it is more likely to run in families. If you experience abnormal bleeding or pelvic pain, talk to your doctor. While there is no known cause, and no known cure for endometriosis, treatments do exist, including medications and surgery to reduce symptoms and restore fertility.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.