Painful. Frustrating. Isolating. Having a chronic inflammatory disease like endometriosis can be all of these things, but it doesn't have to be that way. Endometriosis is a disorder in which the lining of the uterus (endometrium) grows elsewhere within the abdominal or pelvic region. While there is no cure, there are ways to treat this often misunderstood condition. With the right treatment options, you can find relief from the symptoms that have held you back from living a happy and healthy life.
5 Treatment Options to Relieve Discomfort
If pain associated with endometriosis such as severe menstrual cramps starts affecting your daily life, that’s where treatment options come into play. For those first diagnosed, a provider will first see what stage of endometriosis you’re in before choosing the right course of action. The four stages include minimal, mild, moderate, and severe. Depending on the severity, these stages also determine the treatment option to alleviate any discomfort. For many women, lifestyle changes and medication management help reduce symptoms, while those who suffer from more severe forms of endometriosis opt for hormone therapy or surgery.
Here are 5 treatments for potentially reducing endometriosis pain:
1. Lifestyle: Home remedies like changes to lifestyle is one of the first steps to take to diminish any pain associated with endometriosis. Some at-home options for alleviating discomfort include:
- Warm baths
- Heating pads (on the lower back and pelvic region)
- Regular exercise
Soothing, warm baths help to relieve discomfort in the pelvic region, and they may aid in reducing stress when pain levels are elevated. Consider adding relaxing scents such as lavender, eucalyptus, and lemongrass to your next bath, or toss in a spoonful of Epsom salts to decrease stabbing or throbbing sensations.
Heating pads are great for when you need relief. Cozy up in bed or on the couch and place the pad on your lower back or pelvic region. The heat will alleviate discomfort, but always remember to turn the heating pad off when no longer in use.
Exercising may also contribute to reduced pain levels. Partaking in 30 minutes of daily exercise will strengthen pelvic muscles and may decrease the chance of discomfort during menstruation.
2. Medication: Medication may improve symptoms like cramping, stabbing, soreness, or shooting pains. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce fevers, pain, and inflammation. NSAIDs include drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Other options include naproxen sodium (i.e. Aleve) that help ease the pain.
Medication is an excellent choice for those wanting to try a way to alleviate any issues from endometriosis, but it’s not ideal for those suffering from stages in moderate or severe.
Beyond pain medicines, you may consider alternative medications like acupuncture. It’s recommended to discuss any medication use with your provider.
3. Hormone Therapy: Hormone therapy is one of the most effective options for reducing pain associated with endometriosis. Hormonal medication often slows down tissue growth and potentially prevents additional growth from forming. There are four different types of therapies that women may select.
- Hormone contraceptives come in options such as birth control pills, patches, and vaginal rings. These kinds of contraceptives aid in controlling the hormones that respond to growing endometrial tissue.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) agonists and antagonists, otherwise known as artificial menopause. The drugs ability to create a form of artificial menopause shrinks the endometrial tissue and stops additional growth. Once a woman decides to cease using this, they should be able to have the possibility for conceiving.
- Progestin therapy is similar to hormonal contraceptives, but the difference is with the use of only progesterone instead of a combination including estrogen, which is typically added into other hormone contraceptives. The use of progesterone alone, thins the lining of the uterus which limits the growth of endometrial tissue.
- Aromatase inhibitors block and reduce the amount of estrogen the body creates. Many of these therapies may be done in conjunction with one another. It’s best to speak with your provider about which route is right for you.
4. Surgery: If the endometriosis is too severe, surgery is a standard course for women to choose. Most operations are done laparoscopically, which is when a small instrument removes the damaged tissue. These types of surgeries help to preserve the uterus and ovaries, thus allowing a woman to potentially become pregnant in the future.
Another form of surgery is a hysterectomy and is for women who choose to no longer conserve their reproductive parts. A hysterectomy will remove the uterus along with the ovaries, thus resulting in menopause. Many providers are steering away from this option unless needed and are choosing to focus on just removing the damaged tissue.
5. Fertility: Endometriosis may increase fertility issues. Fertility treatments include a couple of options such as:
- Stimulating ovaries
- In Vitro Fertilization
If you’re finding yourself having trouble conceiving, it’s best to discuss your treatment options with your provider, as every situation is unique and treatment will depend on what is best for you.
Discuss Your Options at Metro OBGYN
If you’re feeling down about your diagnosis, know that endometriosis is a common disorder, as roughly 10% of women are diagnosed with it. Consider joining a support group to talk with other women in your community about feelings and experiences. Talking about problems, issues, and diagnoses may make you feel better about the diagnosis and help determine options to take at-home to alleviate your pain.
If your pain has become too much or you’re concerned about the next steps in your diagnosis, schedule a consultation to discuss the course of action that’s best for you, or get to know more about endometriosis by downloading our free guide!