March is Endometriosis Awareness Month all around the world. According to the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), at least 6.5 million women have endometriosis in the US alone. Worldwide the number is estimated to be around 200 million.
Right now, there is no cure for endometriosis. However, there is hope for women suffering from the condition. There are three main types of endometriosis treatments to help deal with symptoms and improve quality of life.
Hormone therapy can help relieve endometriosis symptoms like pain and bleeding. Because these hormonal medications don’t cure endometriosis, they only work for as long as they are taken.
Known as birth control or “the pill,” oral contraceptives are often the first endometriosis treatment doctors prescribe. Birth control pills can make periods more regular, shorter, and lighter. Some types of birth control even prevent periods altogether.
Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) Agonist and Antagonists
This endometriosis treatment prevents ovulation by stopping the production of certain hormones. When ovulation is stopped, then menstruation is also stopped. This prevents the growth of endometriosis. GnRH medications stop hormones in a way that mimics menopause
Progestins are hormonal medications that act like progesterone, a female hormone contributes to ovulation and menstruation. These medications are a good option for women who do not tolerate combined oral contraceptives containing estrogen.
Danazol is a synthetic androgen. Androgens are male sex hormones produced in the testes. They are responsible for male reproductive function. Even though they are male sex hormones, the ovaries also produce small amounts of androgens. Danazol treats endometriosis by offsetting estrogen and preventing menstruation.
Pain medications like over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil & Motrin) and naproxen sodium (Advil) can be taken to relieve pain. They are often recommended to be used along with some form of hormone therapy. If the pain is too severe for those medications to treat in combination with hormone therapy, doctors may consider prescribing a stronger drug.
As we’ve said before, endometriosis can’t be cured, but there are surgical procedures that can temporarily relieve the symptoms of endometriosis. Surgery is often recommended when symptoms are severe. Women should talk to their doctors about if surgical endometriosis treatment is right for them, especially if maintaining fertility is a priority.
This procedure uses an instrument called a laparoscope, which is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision. The scope has a camera attached to it, so the doctor can see inside of the pelvic cavity. Two or more additional incisions will be made for instruments that can remove or destroy the lesions. The goal of laparoscopy is to remove the harmful tissue without damaging the tissue around it. Women who want to remain fertile often choose this procedure for that reason.
This surgery is also done to remove endometriosis lesions, but it is an open procedure. That means the surgery is performed by making a large incision in the abdomen to visualize and remove tissue without a scope. During a laparotomy, the doctor may find additional damage caused by endometriosis and remove the uterus and/or ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Hysterectomy & Salpingo-Oophorectomy
If the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes are all removed, it is called a total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. If any of these procedures are performed, then the woman will no longer be able to get pregnant.
If you are struggling with the symptoms of endometriosis and want to discuss treatment options, call Kernodle OB/GYN at (336) 538-2367 to make an appointment.