Medications for Endometriosis
by Editorial Staff and Contributors
The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your healthcare provider if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your healthcare provider, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your healthcare provider.
Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) Agonist
GnRH agonists block the release of hormones that cause ovulation. As a result, estrogen is not produced. This stops the menstrual cycle and helps to relieve the symptoms of endometriosis.
For women with endometriosis, GnRH agonists can have the following health benefits:
A GnRH agonist can be given by injection or through a nasal spray. It is usually prescribed for 6 months or more. Side effects are common and can vary depending on the drug taken. They can be severe in some women.
Possible side effects include:
GnRH agonists have been shown to decrease bone density. Talk to your doctor about this risk; it may affect how long you can take these drugs. You may need to take a calcium supplement.
GnRH agonists are known to cause birth defects. Do not take this medication if there is a chance that you can become pregnant.
Danazol is a synthetic androgen, which is a male hormone. Danazol helps relieve the symptoms of endometriosis by stopping reproductive hormones from being made and by stopping the menstrual cycle.
Danazol can have the following benefits:
Danazol is taken in pill form, typically three times per day for 6-9 months at a time. It is sometimes given with oral contraceptives to decrease possible side effects. Most of the side effects are due to the effects of the male hormone. Most are relatively mild and stop when treatment stops.
Possible side effects include:
Danazol is known to cause birth defects. Do not take this medication if there is a chance that you can become pregnant.
Progestin is one of the hormones that are naturally released by the ovary during the menstrual cycle. Taken as medication, it stops ovulation and the menstrual cycle. Progestins can be very effective for controlling the mild-to-moderate symptoms of endometriosis. They can be given as long-term therapy and can be especially useful in women who do not want to become pregnant.
Progestins can have the following health benefits:
Progestins are taken in pill form, by injection, or by delivery from an intrauterine device. Injections are typically given once every 3 months. Progestin in pill form can be given as progestin alone or as an estrogen/progestin-combined oral contraceptive. In pill form, it is taken once per day and should be taken at approximately the same time every day. If it causes nausea, it should be taken just before bedtime.
Possible side effects include:
In premenopausal women, such as women with endometriosis, aromatase inhibitor regimens require concomitant ovarian suppression with a GnRH agonist, progestin, or combined oral contraceptive. The most attractive combination is probably the oral contraceptive plus aromatase inhibitor. The side effects are comparable to other treatments, but do not include the risk of bone density loss experienced with GnRH agonist.
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Common names include:
NSAIDs are pain relievers. If pain is expected (for example, during your menstrual period), these medications work best when taken on a scheduled rather than an as-needed basis. The dose depends on the amount of pain. For severe pain, NSAIDs are available in higher doses by prescription. These medications should be taken with food and a full glass of water.
NSAIDs are known to increase bleeding. If you are going to have surgery or a biopsy, tell your healthcare provider that you are taking these medications. Also, they should be used with caution if you have a stomach ulcer, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or are taking blood thinners.
If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:
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Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 9/17/2014
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