Treating endometriosis

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:50 pm
Endometriosis (EN-doe-mee-tree-OH-sis) occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus begins to grow in other locations, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or abdominal cavity. In a few cases, endometriosis may appear on the bowel or bladder. As the tissue goes through the monthly cycle of menstruation, the bleeding can damage nearby organs. Treatment options depend on the severity of the condition. When endometriosis is mild, with no painful symptoms, doctors may simply observe the condition over time. Or, medications may be used to lower estrogen production, and thereby shrink endometriosis. However, these medications have side effects. Some types can cause male hormone-like changes, such as acne, reduced breast size, and facial hair. The class of drugs called gonadotropin (GONE-ad-oh-TROE-pin) or G-n-R-H agonists (AG-oh-nists) often result in 'medical menopause,' with hot flashes, vaginal dryness and mood changes. However, these effects go away after treatment ends. Progesterone (pro-JESS-ter-oan), a hormone in birth control pills, may also be used. In addition, birth control pills themselves can reduce endometriosis, and seem to discourage its development. Finally, you may consider surgery. Conservative surgery preserves the pelvic organs, while removing as much endometriosis and scar tissue as possible. However, it may need to be repeated. Radical surgery involves a total hysterectomy, as well as removal of the tubes, ovaries, and any obvious endometrial tissue. For more information on treating endometriosis, consult a health care provider.

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