There’s no cure for endometriosis (yet), but treatment can help manage it.
A diagnosis of endometriosis may bring mixed feelings. On one hand, many people struggle with mysterious pain and heavy periods for years before they get an accurate diagnosis. It’s natural to feel relief when you finally have an answer. On the other hand, there’s no cure for “endo,” which may feel frustrating. Still, some habits and treatment options may help relieve endometriosis symptoms and prevent complications.
What are the medication treatment options for endometriosis?
Two key medications to treat endometriosis include hormonal birth control and GnRH agonists (gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists).
Hormonal birth control can help reduce heavy periods. It can also help reduce spotting between periods. Plus, hormonal birth control may help relieve some of the painful cramping. This may include the Pill, patch, or hormonal IUD (intrauterine device).
The downfall of hormonal birth control is that it’s not ideal for people who are trying to conceive. In this case, doctors may suggest GnRH agonists.
This treatment is a process. First, this prevents ovulation, which puts you into a temporary menopause. It also helps regulate endometriosis growths. Then, when you come off the medication, the menstrual cycle returns. This can help improve the chances of getting pregnant.
Finally, over-the-counter pain relievers are a good option for helping to relieve painful cramping. You should talk to your doctor about what a safe amount of ibuprofen or other pain reliever is for you. Overuse of these medications can cause side effects or health problems.
What lifestyle changes can help?
It’d be hard to manage endometriosis with lifestyle changes alone. However, they can help improve your overall well being. Plus, healthy habits may provide a buffer against the stress of living with endometriosis. That can help reduce the risk of depression, which is common among people who live with chronic illnesses.
Healthy habits that may help include:
- Exercising regularly: Exercise releases endorphins, which can actually help relieve pain. Bonus: It may help improve mood, too.
- Eating well, including plenty of fiber: Endometriosis can sometimes cause digestive problems, such as diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. A poor diet low in fiber may worsen this and cause straining during bowel movements.
- Relieving stress: Again, living with a chronic illness is stressful. Build stress management strategies into your routine: Don’t wait until your mental health dips before practicing self-care. Consider meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or other calming hobbies.
- Applying heating pads to the abdomen: Heat can provide comfort for pain. You can also try hot water bottles or warm baths.
What surgeries help with endometriosis growths?
Some people may need surgery for endometriosis. This procedure helps remove endometriosis patches, especially if they are blocking or damaging other organs. These patches can wrap around or block certain organs, which may affect their function.
The other surgical option is a hysterectomy. Removing the uterus basically helps stop the growth of endometrial patches. In some cases, the surgeon may also remove the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes. You can also remove the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes and keep the uterus.
While a hysterectomy helps with endometriosis, it essentially puts the body into an early menopause. This not only eliminates the chance of pregnancy, but it can come with an increased risk of certain health problems, such as osteoporosis.
Treatment for endometriosis isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Your symptoms and needs may be very different from others with endometriosis. As a result, you and your doctor will need to work together to find the treatment approach that works for you.
- Endometriosis. Washington, DC: MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on September 1, 2021)
- Endometriosis. Washington, DC: Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (Accessed on September 1, 2021)
- Living with endometriosis. Washington, DC: MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on September 1, 2021)