Medicines for Endometriosis
There are several medicines used to treat pain and other symptoms related to endometriosis. While none of these drugs are considered a cure, they may help improve symptoms and quality of life. This is not an exhaustive list of all drugs used to treat endometriosis and its symptoms. Talk to your doctor for more details about which drugs may be right for you.
Chronic pain often comes with endometriosis. This pain can come during a person's period (dysmenorrhea) or with sex (dyspareunia). However, it may be present all the time, without an obvious pattern or trend.
Pain medicines can provide much-needed relief. Managing the pain that often comes with endometriosis may also improve quality of life. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are common pain medicines used to treat endometriosis-related pain. NSAIDs are also often used as a first-line treatment for generalized pain, headaches, and inflammation.1,2
Opioids are another class of pain medicine. However, they are not recommended to treat endometriosis pain. Opioids also impact other receptors in the body that impact our emotions, including those that control pleasure. Because of this, opioids can lead to the feeling of being "high" and can become addictive. Opioid addiction can be incredibly difficult to overcome, and overdoses of these medicines can be fatal.3,4
If pain medicines do not provide relief from symptoms, alternative options may help. In many cases, they can be tried before more invasive treatment options. Some of these include:
- Using heat or heating pads
- Changes in diet
- Chiropractic care
- Mind-body practices
Hormone-altering drugs are also commonly used to help manage endometriosis symptoms. Often called hormone therapy drugs, they impact levels of certain hormones in the body. Many hormone therapies suppress ovarian function in one way or another. This can prevent a person from ovulating. This is the process in which the body releases an egg each month. Ovulation can lead to a spike in some hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone. High levels of these hormones are often linked to the growth, thickening, and breakdown of endometriosis lesions. By suppressing ovarian function and ovulation, the levels of these hormones can be stabilized. This can help shrink lesions and reduce pain.5,6
Common examples of hormone therapy include:5,6
- Combination contraceptives like birth control pills, the vaginal ring (NuvaRing), and the skin patch contraceptive (Ortho Evra, Xulane)
- Progesterone-only contraceptives like the hormonal IUD (intrauterine device, Mirena), the birth control arm implant (Nexplanon), and the Depo-Provera birth control shot
- Gn-RH agonists and antagonists like Lupron, Lupaneta Pack, Zoladex, Synarel, and Orilissa
- Danocrine (danazol)