Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis. And while its symptoms usually recede after menopause, this is not the case for all women. However, there are some treatments options for endometriosis that can in many cases alleviate the symptoms and sometimes even overcome the infertility associated with the condition. These treatments for endometriosis range from pain medication to hormone therapy to surgery, including in some cases a hysterectomy.
Pain medication is usually employed if the endometriosis symptoms are mild, and can run the gamut from over-the-counter medicine to strong prescriptions, depending on the severity of your symptoms.
Hormone therapy can be effective if the affected areas are small and the woman has only a mild degree of pain. Common hormones that doctors employ include progesterone, birth control pills, danocrine and GnRG, or gonadotropin-releasing hormone. These hormones can regulate or stop a woman’s menstrual cycle, which can in turn stop the growth of endometriosis and reduce or eliminate symptoms. In fact, hormone therapy is so effective that if it doesn’t reduce your symptoms, your doctor may double-check to make sure the endometriosis diagnosis is in fact correct.
Surgery may be employed for women with extensive endometriosis or extreme pain. During the surgery, the surgeon may be able to determine the size and scope of the endometriosis, and possibly remove the endometriosis at the same time. A laparoscopy allows physicians to diagnose and treat endometriosis without making large abdominal cuts; the physician can inspect the abdomen for endometrial tissue and excise or remove it with heat, then seal the wounds in a process that does not involve stitches. This is a relatively minor surgery that does not usually involve an overnight stay in a hospital.
A laparotomy is a more involved procedure, and requires a longer recovery times. During this surgery, doctors try to remove the endometrial tissue, and in some cases this involves hysterectomy, or the complete removal of the uterus, and/or the removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries if they also contain endometrial tissue. This major surgery is seen as a last resort, however— and even with a hysterectomy, there is no guarantee that the endometriosis or pain will not return.
Another, even more drastic option in cases of severe pain is for doctors to sever pelvic nerves to reduce pain. This can be done during either a laparoscopy or a laparotomy, but is irreversible.
For women rendered infertile by endometriosis, laparoscopy to remove the endometrial growths can as much as double a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. Hormonal treatments for infertility caused by endometriosis have not been as successful; birth control pills and hormones that regulate menstruation do not seem to improve fertility. However, in vitro fertilization (IVF) can help. IVF allows couples to combine sperm and egg in a laboratory, and then place the resulting embryos in the woman’s uterus.