Endometriosis causes painful symptoms for approximately 7 million women in the United States and is the leading cause of female infertility, pelvic pain, and gynecologic surgeries. Endometriosis — a condition in which uterine tissue grows outside the uterus — affects 1 in 10 women during their reproductive years. While there’s no cure for this condition, there are effective treatments to help alleviate painful symptoms.
Here at the OB/GYN practice of Dr. John Macey in Nashville, Tennessee, we educate women of all ages about their treatment options for endometriosis. If you’re one of the millions of women dealing with this health condition that leads to both physical and emotional stress, Dr. Macey can help you, too. Once you understand your options, Dr. Macey works with you to find the one that works best for your individual circumstances.
To understand the treatments, it’s important to first understand endometriosis. There’s no known cause, but there are certain factors that may contribute to whether or not you develop endometriosis during your reproductive years. These factors include having:
- A mother or sister who also has the condition
- Retrograde menstruation, in which menstrual blood flows into the pelvic cavity
- An immune system disorder
- Periods at an early age
- Heavy menstrual periods that last longer than seven days
- Shorter-than-average menstrual cycles
- Low body mass index (BMI)
- A late start to menopause
Most women don’t develop symptoms of endometriosis until years after their first period, and in some cases, symptoms improve during pregnancy. Then when you’re in menopause the condition completely goes away.
Why treat endometriosis?
In addition to disruptive symptoms that include painful periods, painful sex, and excessive bleeding both during and between periods, endometriosis also causes infertility. So, even if you’re managing symptoms of endometriosis, you may not be able to become pregnant if you have the condition.
Left untreated, endometriosis may also cause other health problems. Since the lining of your uterus grows in other areas of your abdomen, when you have your period the blood and tissue can’t exit your body properly. This can lead to cysts in your ovaries, inflammation, and scar tissue that forms on and around your internal organs.
Endometriosis can also lead to intestinal and bladder complications, depending on where the endometrial tissue grows. It can even adhere to your organs, binding them together. Beyond infertility, untreated endometriosis can lead to numerous other health complications.
Exploring treatment options for endometriosis
Since there’s no cure for endometriosis, finding a treatment that works best for you is essential for relieving symptoms and improving your quality of life.
Hormonal birth control pills
Typically, hormonal birth control pills are the first course of treatment for women who aren’t trying to get pregnant. Depending on your needs, Dr. Macey may recommend extended-cycle birth control pills so you don’t have a period each month.
Another option is an intrauterine device (IUD), which helps reduce pain and bleeding. An IUD also prevents pregnancy for several years. With a birth control pill or hormonal IUD, the hormones help to alleviate painful symptoms because they essentially prevent monthly bleeding.
If you have endometriosis and you do want to become pregnant, Dr. Macey may prescribe a different hormone that temporarily stops your body from ovulating. This gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) puts you into temporary menopause and controls endometrial growth. Once you stop taking the medication, your periods return, but you may also have a better chance of getting pregnant.
In severe situations, and if you’re not planning to become pregnant, a hysterectomy to remove your uterus and ovaries alleviates the symptoms of endometriosis. However, you can also explore surgeries that only remove endometrial tissue from your abdomen, while leaving your reproductive organs intact, potentially allowing you to get pregnant later on. If you do need surgery, Dr. Macey uses minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques to remove endometrial tissue from outside the uterus.
When it comes to women’s health issues, especially endometriosis, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Dr. Macey understands this and works with you so you can make the decision that’s right for your individual needs.
To learn more about endometriosis treatment options, we invite you to call our Nashville office, or use the online scheduling tool to request an appointment.