What Non-Surgical Treatment Options Are Available for Endometriosis?

What Causes Endometriosis?

Endometriosis, a cause of female infertility, is a condition in which the endometrial tissue (uterine lining) grows outside of the uterus and attaches to other organs in the abdominal cavity such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. It is a painful condition that does not improve with time and can return after treatment. Painful periods, abnormal bleeding and pain during intercourse are symptoms associated with endometriosis. The cause of endometriosis remains a mystery in some ways. There are theories that menstrual blood backs up through the fallopian tubes and finds its way into the pelvic cavity where it implants and grows. Another thought is that it is a genetic birth abnormality that occurs during fetal development. Regardless the cause, the results of this condition can be devastating.

7 Considerations for Treatment

Treatment options for endometriosis vary with the severity of the disease. The primary aim of treatment is to help reduce and alleviate the key symptoms, which are pain and infertility. The options are also contingent on some considerations that affect the woman, such as:

· Severity of the symptoms

· Type of symptoms the woman is experiencing

· The woman’s age

· The desire to have a baby

· Duration period of treatment

· Ability to cope with drug side-effects

· Cost of treatment

The Use of Drug Therapy to Treat Endometriosis

In cases of mild endometriosis where there are a few small growths, drug therapy aimed at reducing or stopping estrogen production is used. When the condition is more severe the most common method of treatment is surgical.

The non-surgical treatment options available to women with endometriosis include observation without medical intervention and hormonal drug therapies. When endometriosis is very mild some women are treated with pain medications and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Regular visits to the doctor or gynecologist are maintained in order to monitor the condition.

Temporary relief from the symptoms of endometriosis can be achieved with hormone drugs, although there are many side effects that accompany their usage. Since the medical treatment is hormonally based, it will not improve the chances for pregnancy and it will delay conception even more because of the hormonal imbalances it will cause. Hormone treatment is designed to suppress endometriosis rather than remove it and is only effective for a short term – from one to two years after stopping drug treatment.

How Do Hormone Therapies Work?

The idea behind drug therapy is to stop the ovaries’ usual hormonal cycle and thus reduce estrogen levels causing endometrial tissue to shrink and become inactive. The treatments used to achieve this status are drugs such as:

· Contraceptive pills, which are taken continuously rather than as they would be taken to prevent pregnancy. They are prescribed most often for young women with a mild case of endometriosis. Side effects include weight gain, acne and hirsutism (hair growth on the face).

· Gestrinone, a synthetic hormone taken twice weekly rather than daily, affects the production of estrogen by the ovaries. Milder than Danazol, the side effects include weight gain, acne, depression, mood swings, hot flashes, and loss of libido.

· Danazol is a form of testosterone and creates a pseudo-menopausal situation in the body by reducing the amount of estrogen produced to the level of that produced during menopause. Danazol can cause stomach upset, depression and liver disease along with weight gain, hirsutism, acne, increased muscle mass, smaller breasts, deeper voice and mood swings.

· GnRH agonists are gonadotropin releasing hormone drugs that act like the body’s own hormone. They are meant to confuse the system by flooding it and causing the hormonal balance to become skewed. Egg development is blocked as is estrogen production and menstruation. The side effects are very much what are experienced during menopause: thinning of the bones, loss of libido and vaginal dryness, hot flashes, night sweats, headaches and depression. These side effects can be counter-treated by adding back estrogen and progesterone through HRT (hormone replacement therapy) without affecting the initial treatment.

· Progesterone hormone tablets or progestins prevent ovulation, lower estrogen levels and cause endometrial growths to shrink. The side effects are irregular menstrual bleeding, weight gain, mood changes, bloating, fatigue, depression, and nausea.

The purpose of drug treatment for endometriosis is to alter the hormone and chemical levels in a woman’s body. By doing so, natural bodily processes are affected as are the endometrial growths.

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