What medications are used to treat endometriosis?

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There are multiple medications available to treat endometriosis. The first line treatments are usually nonsteroidal anti-iniflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, and birth control pills. These can help treat the symptoms related to endometriosis.  Other medications that treat endometriosis include gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists and danazol. However research hasn't shown what doses and for how long the GnRH agonists should be used. Danazol can help, but it causes some significant side effects for women such as extra hair growth.
The most common medical therapies for endometriosis are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), hormonal contraceptives (in oral, patch and intrauterine or injectable applications) and other hormonal regimens, such as GnRH agonists (gonadotropin-releasing hormone drugs).
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs): These drugs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin, are often the first step in controlling endometriosis-related symptoms.
  • Contraceptive hormones (birth control pills): This option also costs less and has fewer side effects than other hormonal treatment options and may be recommended soon after diagnosis. Birth control pills stop ovulation, thus suppressing the effects of estrogen on endometrial tissue.
  • Medroxyprogesterone (Depo-Provera): This injectable drug, usually used as birth control, effectively halts menstruation and the growth of endometrial tissue, relieving the signs and symptoms of endometriosis.
  • Gonadotropin releasing hormone drugs (GnRH agonists): These drugs block the production of ovarian-stimulating hormones, which prevents menstruation and lowers estrogen levels, thus causing endometrial implants to shrink. However, GnRH drugs are typically only used for six months.
  • Danazol: This reproductive hormone is a synthetic form of a male hormone (androgen) and is available as Danocrine. It is used to treat endometriosis and works by directly suppressing endometrial tissue and suppressing ovarian hormone production.
  • Progestin-containing intrauterine device: Several studies have shown that an intrauterine device (IUD) containing a synthetic type of progesterone (progestin) can also reduce the painful symptoms and extent of disease associated with endometriosis. In some women it suppresses ovulation, and in most women it reduces painful bleeding episodes. Side effects may include irregular bleeding. The IUD needs to be replaced every five years in women under 40.
  • Aromatase inhibitors: This class of drugs inhibits the actions of one of the enzymes that forms estrogen in the body and can block the growth of endometriosis.
This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

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.