There is no cure for endometriosis, but treatments are available for the symptoms and problems it causes. The treatment plan is dependent upon your symptoms, signs, and fertility issues. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.
If you are not trying to get pregnant, hormonal birth control is generally the first step in treatment. This may include:
- Extended-cycle (you have only a few periods a year) or continuous cycle (you have no periods) birth control. These types of hormonal birth control are available in the forms of pill, ring, patch, progestin IUD, implant and shot and help reduce or stop bleeding and decrease or eliminate pain.
- Hormonal treatment works only as long as it is taken .
If you are trying to get pregnant, less commonly, your doctor may prescribe a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist or antagonists for 6-24 months in lieu of surgery. These medicines stop the body from making the hormones responsible for ovulation, the menstrual cycle, and the growth of endometriosis. This treatment causes a temporary menopause and therefore, a delay in pregnancy, but it also helps control the growth of endometriosis. Once you stop taking the medicine, your menstrual cycle returns, but you may have a better chance of getting pregnant.
Your doctor may recommend surgery for severe symptoms, when medications are not providing relief and/or if you are having fertility problems. During the operation, the surgeon locates and optimally treats any areas of endometriosis. After surgery, you usually either restart hormone treatment or reattempt pregnancy. Patients who undergo removal of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes and treatment of any other areas of endometriosis are oftentimes cured and may or may not need postoperative medical management of endometriosis.
Other treatments you can try, alone or with any of the treatments listed above, include:
- Pain medicine. For mild symptoms, your doctor may suggest taking over-the-counter medicines for pain. These include ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).
- Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies. Some people report relief from pain with therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbs like cinnamon twig or licorice root, or supplements, such as thiamine (vitamin B1), magnesium, or omega-3 fatty acids.
- People with endometriosis seem to consume fewer vegetables and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and more red meat, coffee, and trans fats, but these findings could not be consistently replicated.
- Studies on the impact of exercise, caffeine, and alcohol on endometriosis are mixed.