Medications for Endometriosis

Currently, there are several medications used for the treatment of endometriosis-related pain and other endometriosis-related symptoms. Although none of these medications are considered a cure for endometriosis, they may help alleviate symptoms and improve a woman’s quality of life. This is not an exhaustive account of all medications used to treat endometriosis and its symptoms. For a complete list of medications that may be appropriate in your specific situation, contact your healthcare provider.

Pain medications

Chronic pain often accompanies endometriosis. This pain can come with a woman’s period (dysmenorrhea) or with sex (dyspareunia), however, it may be present all the time and without an obvious pattern or trend. On top of providing much needed relief, managing the pain that can accompany endometriosis may also help improve a woman’s quality of life. Common pain medications used to treat endometriosis-related pain are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Examples of common pain-causing conditions that may benefit from using NSAIDs include, but are not limited to, endometriosis, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea), musculoskeletal sprains and strains, tendonitis, and dental-related issues. Additionally, NSAIDs are often used as a first-line treatment for generalized pain, headaches, and inflammation.1,2

Opioids are another class of pain medication; however, their use is not recommended for the treatment of endometriosis pain. Some opioids are available via prescription, such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), and codeine. The illegal drug heroin is also an opioid. In addition to their ability to decrease pain, opioids also impact other receptors in the body that impact our emotions, including receptors 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 medications can be fatal.3,4

If pain medications are not providing an individual with adequate relief, there may be other alternative options that can be tried before pursuing more invasive treatment options. Some of these include, but are not limited to, use of heat or heating pads, exercise, yoga, changes in diet, acupuncture, chiropractic care, mind-body practices, and more.

Hormone therapy

Another common class of medications used to help manage the symptoms of endometriosis are hormone-altering drugs. These medications, often called hormone therapy, impact the levels of certain hormones in the body. Many hormone therapies suppress ovarian function in one way or another. This can prevent a woman from ovulating (the process by which she releases an egg each month). Ovulation can lead to a spike in various hormones, such as estrogen and progestin. These hormones, and their high levels, are often linked to the growth, thickening, and break down of endometriosis lesions. By suppressing ovarian function and ovulation, the levels of these hormones can be stabilized, potentially shrinking endometriosis lesions and reducing pain.

Common examples of hormone therapy used to treat endometriosis-related symptoms and pain include:

  • Combination contraceptives, including birth control pills, the vaginal ring (NuvaRing), and the skin patch contraceptive (Ortho Evra, Xulane)
  • Progestin-only contraceptives, including progestin-only birth control pills, the hormonal IUD (intrauterine device, Mirena), the birth control arm implant (Nexplanon), and the progestin injection (also referred to as the birth control shot, Depo-Provera)
  • Gn-RH agonists, including Lupron, Lupaneta Pack, Zoladex, Synarel and Orilissa
  • Danocrine (danazol)5,6
Written by: Casey Hribar | Last reviewed: June 2018
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