01 Apr 2015
How To Treat Endometriosis Conventionally
The normal standard of care (a fancy medical phrase for what is considered the normal practice) uses the following methods to treat your endometriosis:
~ Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (often referred to as NSAIDs): including Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Anaprox and Naproxyn.
- Challenges: you cannot take them for a long time as they can destroy your GI tract. NSAIDS end up causing holes in your GI tract which can increase your chance of developing food allergies.
- Some people genetically do not make enough of the enzymes to break apart NSAIDs and even 1 dose of an NSAID can cause damage to your GI tract.
~ Opioid medications: oxycodone, Percocet, Darvocet and Norco
- While these medications might initially take the edge off the pain, many people will be sleepy or groggy. This makes it very difficult to be a part of life!
- Can be highly addictive narcotics
~ Hormonal birth control: the pill, the patch and the vaginal ring.
Estrogen Containing Birth Control
- Will help lessen the heavy bleeding and thus reduce the pain.
- Some providers will have you take the birth control pills daily and skip the placebo pills (normally taken during menstruation) so you will have less frequent periods and theoretically less pain.
Possible Side Effects of Estrogens
Estrogen containing birth control pills can cause can upset stomach, tender breasts and spotting. However, birth control pills containing estrogen only can increase your chance of blood clots, stroke or heart attack.
Please keep in mind that the synthetic (man-made) estrogen in birth control pills is not estradiol, estriol or estrone which are the estrogens your ovaries and body naturally make. The most common name of the synthetic estrogen in birth control pills is ethinyl estradiol.
Progestin Containing Birth Control
- Actually prevent endometrial tissue from growing by changing the cells that line your uterus and encourage the tissue to breakdown.
- Studies have found 80 % of women had some or complete pain relief when given given progestins only.
- Women receiving DepoProvera shots (progestin shots), had a dramatic decrease in period pain, pain during sex, and pelvic pain/tenderness even 12 months after the injection.
- Levonorgestrel is a ring that is placed near the cervix that releases levonorgestrel (progestin) for up to 5 years.
Possible side effects of progestins: weight gain, spotting and changes in their mood: mainly depression.
Some additional thoughts about progestins and progesterone
Progestin is an artificial form of progesterone. Your body naturally makes progesterone, NOT PROGESTIN. I want to be very clear: Progesterone DOES NOT EQUAL Progestin, despite what I was taught and what the medical community says. If you look at the chemical structure of these two hormones you can see they are NOT EQUAL. Yet, providers use the terms progesterone and progestin interchangeably, as if they are the same!
Your body has a natural, beautiful dance between estrogen and progesterone. As estrogen climbs, progesterone stays low. When estrogen drops, progesterone climbs. In this way they complement each other and protect your breast and ovarian tissue from possible cancerous growth. When you take just one hormone without the other, your body loses out on its dance partner.
Other types of hormone treatment
Include gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists such as Lupron, Suprefact, Supprelin LA and others.
- GnRH agonists are products that are an artificial version of your hypothalamus hormone. The hypothalamus is the master controller who sends signals to your organs like ovaries, testies, thyroid, adrenals, etc and tells them to make more or less hormone.
- GnRH drugs cause a low estrogen state.
- Usually given either through a nasal spray or an injection.
- GnRH drugs have been successful for moderate to severe endometriosis.
Possible side Effects include symptoms that imitate menopause: hot flashes, vaginal dryness, night sweats and decreased bone density (a measure of how strong your bones are)
While relief is found, GnRH drugs are synthetic chemicals which are not normal for the body and they do not address the underlying disease.
- Usually involves a laproscopy to examine the extent of endometriosis
- If the lesions or adhesions are small enough, they are removed with a laser
- If the lesions are larger, a laparptomy is used, where there is a larger cut into the abdomen
- If all other treatments are unsuccessful, a hysterectomy is often recommended
This always struck me as a pretty short list, for such a life-altering and life-stopping disease. When my endometriosis flared, I felt as if my life stopped. I couldn’t do anything with my life except devote my time to nursing the disease, by laying on the couch in the fetal position and taking NSAIDs and pain medications. I experienced overwhelming fatigue from the endometriosis and combined with the narcotic pain medications, I spent most of my days sleeping: the picture of a typical, healthy teenager! endometriosis