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Endometriosis - Medications

Medicines can be used to reduce pain and bleeding and, in some cases, to shrink endometriosis growths. For women who are not trying to get pregnant, birth control hormones and anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are usually recommended first. They are least likely to cause serious side effects and can be a long-term treatment option.1 But if infertility from endometriosis is your main problem, medicines are generally not used.

Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)

  • Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) reduce pain, inflammation, and bleeding from endometrial tissue. Check with your doctor before you use a nonprescription medicine for more than a few days.
    • Start taking the recommended dose as soon as your discomfort begins or the day before your menstrual period is scheduled to start.
    • Take the medicine in regularly scheduled doses. Taking the medicine only when your pain is severe is not as effective.
    • If one type of NSAID doesn't relieve your pain, try another type. Or try acetaminophen, such as Tylenol.

Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

Hormone therapy

  • Birth control hormones (patch, pills, or ring) stop monthly ovulation and the growth, shedding, and bleeding that makes endometriosis painful. Birth control hormones improve endometriosis pain for most women.4 And they are the hormone therapy that is least likely to cause bad side effects. For this reason, many women can use them for years. Other hormone therapies can only be used for several months to 2 years. For more general information on birth control hormones, see Birth Control Pills, Patch, or Ring.
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRH-a) therapy lowers estrogen, triggering a state that is like menopause. This shrinks implants and reduces pain for most women.
  • Progestin (pills or Depo-Provera shot) stops ovulation and lowers estrogen. For most women, it shrinks endometriosis growths and reduces pain. Some studies show that the levonorgestrel intrauterine device (IUD) decreases pain.5
  • Danazol therapy lowers estrogen levels and raises androgen levels, triggering a menopause-like state. This shrinks growths and reduces pain for most women. This relief usually lasts for 6 to 12 months after treatment. But danazol side effects can be significant.

All hormone therapies for endometriosis can cause side effects and pose certain health risks. Some cause especially unpleasant side effects. Before starting a medicine or hormone therapy, review its possible side effects. If they sound less difficult than your endometriosis symptoms, discuss the therapy with your doctor.

Endometriosis: Should I Use Hormone Therapy?

What to think about

Ovarian cancer risk is higher in women who have endometriosis. Using birth control hormones for 5 or more years lowers this risk.6

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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