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
Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) reduce
inflammation, and bleeding from endometrial tissue.
Check with your doctor
before you use a nonprescription medicine for more than a few days. (If there is
a chance that you are or could soon become pregnant, don't use an NSAID.
They have been linked to increased miscarriage risk, especially when used at
the time of conception and when used for longer than a
- Start taking the recommended dose as soon
as your discomfort begins or the day before your menstrual period is scheduled
- Take the medicine in regularly scheduled doses. Taking
the medicine only when your pain is severe is not as
- If one type of NSAID doesn't relieve your pain, try
another type. Or try acetaminophen, such as Tylenol.
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
menopause-like state. 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.7
Danazol therapy lowers estrogen levels
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
risk is higher in women who have endometriosis.
Using birth control hormones for 5 or more years lowers this risk.8