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Endometriosis Health Center

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Endometriosis - Topic Overview

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Many different problems can cause painful or heavy periods. To find out if you have endometriosis, your doctor will:

  • Ask questions about your symptoms, your periods, your past health, and your family history. Endometriosis sometimes runs in families.
  • Do a pelvic exam. This may include checking both your vagina and rectum.

If it seems like you have endometriosis, your doctor may suggest that you try medicine for a few months. If you get better using medicine, you probably have endometriosis.

To find out if you have a cyst on an ovary, you might have an imaging test like an ultrasound, an MRI, or a CT scan. These tests show pictures of what is inside your belly.

The only way to be sure you have endometriosis is to have a type of surgery called laparoscopy (say "lap-uh-ROSS-kuh-pee"). During this surgery, the doctor puts a thin, lighted tube through a small cut in your belly. This lets the doctor see what is inside your belly. If the doctor finds implants, scar tissue, or cysts, he or she can remove them during the same surgery.

There is no cure for endometriosis, but there are good treatments. You may need to try several treatments to find what works best for you. With any treatment, there is a chance that your symptoms could come back.

Treatment choices depend on whether you want to control pain or you want to get pregnant. For pain and bleeding, you can try medicines or surgery. If you want to get pregnant, you may need surgery to remove the implants.

Treatments for endometriosis include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medicines like ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (such as Aleve). These medicines are called anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. They can reduce bleeding and pain.
  • Birth control pills are often used to treat endometriosis. Most women can use them safely for years. But you cannot use them if you want to get pregnant.
  • Hormone therapy. This stops your periods and shrinks implants. But it can cause side effects, and pain may come back after treatment ends. Like birth control pills, hormone therapy will keep you from getting pregnant.
  • Laparoscopy to remove implants and scar tissue. This may reduce pain, and it may also help you get pregnant.

As a last resort for severe pain, some women have their uterus and ovaries removed (hysterectomy and oophorectomy). If you have your ovaries taken out, your estrogen level will drop and your symptoms will probably go away. But you may have symptoms of menopause, and you will not be able to get pregnant.

If you are getting close to menopause, you may want to try to manage your symptoms with medicines rather than surgery. Endometriosis usually stops causing problems when you stop having periods.

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