Health Information

Living with endometriosis

Living with endometriosis

Description

You have a condition called endometriosis. Symptoms of endometriosis include:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Problems getting pregnant

Having this condition can interfere with your social and work life.

No one knows what causes endometriosis. There is also no cure. However, there are different ways to treat the symptoms. These treatments can also help relieve menstrual pain.

Learning how to manage your symptoms can make it easier to live with endometriosis.

Medicines to treat endometriosis

Your doctor may prescribe different types of hormone therapy. These may be birth control pills or injections. Be sure to follow your doctor's directions for taking these medicines. Do not stop taking them without talking with your doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor about any side effects.

Over-the-counter pain relievers can reduce the pain of endometriosis. These include:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

If the pain is worse during your periods, try starting these medicines 1 to 2 days before your period begins.

Ask your doctor about other medicines to relieve your pain.

Self-care

Apply a hot water bottle or heating pad to your lower stomach. This can get blood flowing and relax your muscles. Warm baths also may help relieve pain.

Lie down and rest. Place a pillow under your knees when lying on your back. If you prefer to lie on your side, pull your knees up toward your chest. These positions help take the pressure off your back.

Get regular exercise. Exercise helps improve blood flow. It also triggers your body's natural painkillers, called endorphins.

Eat a balanced, healthy diet. Maintaining a healthy weight will help improve your overall health. Eating plenty of fiber can help keep you regular so you don't have to strain during bowel movements.

Techniques that also offer ways to relax and may help relieve pain include:

  • Muscle relaxation
  • Deep breathing
  • Visualization
  • Biofeedback
  • Yoga

Some women find that acupuncture helps ease painful periods. Some studies show it also helps with chronic pain.

If self care for pain doesn't help, talk with your doctor about other treatment options.

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have severe pelvic pain.

Call your provider for an appointment if:

  • You have pain during or after sex
  • Your periods become more painful
  • You have blood in your urine or pain when you urinate
  • You have blood in your stool, painful bowel movements, or a change in your bowel movements
  • You are unable to become pregnant after trying for 1 year

References

ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 110: Noncontraceptive uses of hormonal contraceptives. Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Jan;115(1):206-18.

Brown J, Pan A, Hart RJ. Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone analogues for pain associated with endometriosis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Dec 8;(12):CD008475.

de Ziegler D, Borghese B, Chapron C. Endometriosis and infertility: pathophysiology and management. Lancet. 2010 Aug 28;376(9742):730-8.

Giudice LC. Clinical practice. Endometriosis. N Engl J Med. 2010 Jun 24;362(25):2389-98.

Lobo R. Endometriosis: etiology, pathology, diagnosis, management. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap. 19.

Smith CA, Zhu X, He L, Song J. Acupuncture for dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2011. Issue 1.

Vickers AJ, Cronin AM, Maschino AC, et al. Acupuncture for chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis. Archives of Internal Medicine. September 10, 2012.


Review Date: 3/18/2014
Reviewed By: Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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