Your Guide to Endometriosis
Can Endometriosis Be Cured?
There is no known cure for endometriosis. Most of the time, once effective management of the symptoms has been determined, the treatment will continue until menopause unless you are trying to get pregnant. There are very effective treatments to reduce the size of tissue growth and to relieve painful symptoms. Symptoms lessen or cease during pregnancy and the menopause. This is because the monthly bleeding cycle which causes the growths or nodules does not occur. The hormonal medications used to treat endometriosis work by lessening or attempting to stop the monthly menstrual cycle, mimicking the body’s response to pregnancy or menopause. When this happens, the growths are less likely to bleed, leading to less inflammation and subsequent scarring or cyst formation.
How Is Endometriosis Treated?
Endometriosis without symptoms, or with mild symptoms, usually does not require medical treatment. Your doctor may choose to follow you with frequent examinations.
When necessary, treatment may vary depending on whether you are being treated for pain or infertility secondary to the endometriosis.
Medications for Endometriosis
For mild cases of endometriosis, your doctor may order a pill form of hormones that must be taken each day. Hormone treatment can reduce the size of tissue growths. Once hormone treatment stops, growths usually return to their original size. Hormones also reduce the amount of blood produced during menstruation, which gives tissues time to heal and reduces potential scarring of the inside tissues. Commonly prescribed hormones include:
- Birth control pills
- Progesterone (progestins)
- Danazol -- a man-made male hormone that reduces the size of abnormal tissues. Danazol can cause birth defects. Women using this drug need to use a barrier form of birth control to prevent pregnancy. Because it is a male hormone, other side effects such as acne and abnormal hair growth, which occur as a result, make it a less-commonly used medication to treat endometriosis.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists -- hormones which mimic menopause and can both treat and diagnose endometriosis.
Medications to reduce painful cramps include:
Unfortunately, drugs are not successful in treating the infertility caused by endometriosis.
Surgery for Endometriosis
For more severe cases of endometriosis, scar tissue may be removed during laparoscopy. This appears to improve pain symptoms and may increase the chances of pregnancy. Alternatively, a hysterectomy to remove the ovaries and uterus can be performed. Less-commonly performed procedures which may help with the pain from endometriosis include LUNA (Laparoscopically Uterosacral Nerve Ablation) and Presacral Neurectomy.
Will I Be Able to Have Children If I Have Endometriosis?
Most women with endometriosis can have children. If you have endometriosis, your chances for getting pregnant will depend on how severe your condition is and how well it responds to treatment. Making your doctor aware of your reproductive desires will allow you and your doctor to choose a treatment path that allows you the chance to accomplish your family planning goals. Usually a period of observation without treatment is advised before proceeding to surgical treatments.