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Find Good Reading » Blog Archive » Should You Treat Your Endometriosis with Hormone Therapy?

Should You Treat Your Endometriosis with Hormone Therapy?

Researchers are still not sure what causes endometriosis, but it is clear that the female sex hormone estrogen, which stops being produced during menopause, feeds the growth of abnormal endometrial tissue.

Unfortunately, for most young teens and women in their reproductive years, menopause is still many years away, which means they are left to deal with the painful symptoms of endometriosis, with no relief in sight. Thus, what is often recommended for many non-menopausal women is hormone therapy.

Hormone therapy is one of the most successful treatments for endometriosis, as it helps around 80-90% of the women who take it. Hormone therapy controls estrogen, helping to alleviate pain caused by endometriosis. It can also reduce the size and amount of endometrial implants, stopping endometriosis from spreading.

However, it is important to note that hormone therapy does not improve a woman’s fertility. Therefore, if you are concerned about infertility or wish to become pregnant, these therapies are not an option for you. Moreover, young teenage girls, who have not reached the end of puberty, are usually unable to take this form of treatment, as it poses a risk to their development.

In addition, there are various types of hormone therapy and each woman responds to treatment differently. Furthermore, like taking any medication, there are always pros and cons that need to be carefully considered.

The following is information about the most popular forms of hormone therapies used to treat endometriosis:

Birth control pills – This is the most popular therapy and is considered safe to use for long term use. A woman can generally use it until menopause. Birth control pills are designed to control menses and stop ovulation. Without ovulation, endometrial implants can no longer grow and will shrink.

Birth control pills lower the risk of ovarian cancer, and are generally safe for most women. This therapy is available in pill, skin patch or vaginal ring form. It has few negative side effects including headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, depression, mood swings, and irregular, light or absent menses. It also increases the risk of blood clots and slightly increases the risk of breast cancer.

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRH-a) – This therapy decreases estrogen levels to those experienced after menopause, and can only be taken for the short term (no more than 6 months). GnRH-a increases the risk of bone loss, which can cause osteroporosis, and is why it is usually taken with progestin to help prevent thinning of bones and other menopausal symptoms. GnRH-a is often used to help prolong the relief of endometriosis pain after surgery, as it works to prevent the return of endometriosis.

High dose progestin – This therapy is taken in the form of pills or a shot. It is designed to produce progestin levels in the body that mirror pregnancy. This therapy ceases monthly ovulation, and decreases estrogen which allows endometriosis growths to shrink, alleviating pain in most women. Progestin can be taken for long term (usually no more than 2 years).

The side effects of progestin include depression, bloating, breast tenderness, weight gain, light or absent menses, risk of bone loss if taken for longer than 2 years, and fertility can take up to a year or longer before it returns.

Danazol – This therapy decreases estrogen levels and increases the level of androgen (male) hormones. Danazol also puts the body into a menopause-like state. Although it effectively shrinks endometrial growths and reduces pain, its side effects can include muscle cramps, weight gain, acne, skin rash, oily hair and skin, decrease in breast size, facial and body hair, and even voice deepening. To make matters worse, most of these male-transforming side effects can be permanent.

Danazol is often short term therapy, and is usually the last doctors will recommend.

Talk to your doctor to find out if hormone therapy is right for you.

For other endometriosis treatments or for details about treating endometriosis symptoms naturally, please visit Treating Your Endometriosis and sign up for a free newsletter.

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