Endometriosis is a long-term condition. You and your doctor will continue to manage its symptoms over time. After your doctor diagnoses endometriosis, you may want an action plan that will help you map your path to managing this condition.

Speaking with your doctor is an important first step. Together, you will determine the best way to go forward, from medical treatment to steps you can take at home to improve your quality of life.

The treatment path that lies ahead is unique to you: Your options and choices depend on what you want out of your life, and the medical recommendations offered by your doctor specifically for you.

Treatment options for endometriosis

Endometriosis is the growth of uterine lining cells outside of the uterus. No one knows exactly what causes it. However, doctors know what conditions inside your body exacerbate endometriosis and cause you additional pain.

Endometriosis can’t be cured, so treatment focuses on preventing it from getting worse. Your doctor can provide tools for you to use at home to ease your symptoms. They’ll also discuss with you medical treatments and side effects.

Hormone therapy, such as birth control or gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, is a common first line of defense. These medications alter your body’s normal reproductive cycle. As a result, they also stop or slow the endometrial tissue from growing abnormally, reducing your pain.

If you’re trying to have a baby, you may still use hormone therapy, but your desire to get pregnant will affect the kind of treatment recommended by your doctor. Many women who experience infertility also have endometriosis, so your reproductive plans and desires should be part of the conversation.

Women living with severe pain as the result of endometriosis may consider surgical options. These include removing the endometrial tissue that has grown outside the uterus. This kind of surgery leaves the reproductive organs intact.

Another type of surgery, a hysterectomy, removes the uterus and possibly the ovaries and other reproductive organs. A hysterectomy is a “last resort” option to treat endometriosis. Women who don’t have a uterus can’t become pregnant.

Managing endometriosis

There are many ways you can take control of endometriosis at home. These techniques are designed to make the body a less friendly environment for the growth of endometrial tissue. They also make it easier for you to feel better by reducing pain.

Over-the-counter pain treatment, such as the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, may help you feel better temporarily. However, painkillers mask the symptoms of endometriosis. They don’t make it go away. Your doctor may recommend these painkillers as a way of helping you get through your life day-to-day. But talk to your doctor about options that don’t just mask the symptoms.

Some women use aromatherapy, physical therapy, yoga, meditation, and other pain management techniques to help reduce the severity of endometriosis symptoms. As you become more in touch with your body, you’ll find the techniques that work best for you.

Since estrogen causes endometrial tissue to grow, you can take steps to reduce your estrogen levels. Regular exercise, along with avoiding alcohol and caffeine, are strategies that may help lower your estrogen levels.

Consider a diet that doesn’t promote inflammation. Some current research shows inflammation exacerbates the condition. Foods that promote inflammation include refined carbohydrates, white processed flour, fatty foods, sugar, margarine, processed meat, and red meat. Choose whole food instead.

Lifestyle tips

When you experience pain on a regular basis, it can be a challenge to stay healthy. Remaining active, however, may help you to overcome the mental and physical effects of chronic pain. In terms of endometriosis, staying in shape can prevent the symptoms from getting worse.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health, recommends at least four hours of exercise per week, and no more than one alcoholic drink and one caffeinated drink per day.

The takeaway

It's important to follow a treatment plan provided by your doctor. Continue the conversation with them as you use the medication they prescribed. By following your doctor’s instructions, you begin to learn what works well and what doesn’t.

Talk to your doctor about changing your treatment plan, if needed. As you pay attention to what works for your body, you can make more informed choices about your health.