Endometriosis ~ Abdominal Pain ~ Endo ~ Scar Tissue ~ Adhesions ~ Infertility ~ Hysterectomy

Friday, August 19, 2011

New hope for endometriosis sufferers

By Cheah Ui-Hoon

Women who suffer from endometriosis now have another drug to turn to in their struggle to manage the condition. A new pill, Visanne, has been designed to tackle the problem differently from conventional hormonal medicine. Whereas the latter prevents the ovaries from producing estrogen - and gives women menopausal side effects as a result - the new drug does not block the production of estrogen.

'This new medicine takes a completely different approach. It blocks ovulation, thus lowering the chances of endometriosis, but it does not block estrogen,' explains Thomas Strowitzki, director of the Department of Gynaecological Endocrinology and Reproductive Medicine at the University of Heidelberg, Germany.

Conventional GnRH (Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone) analogue drugs put women in a menopausal state for the duration of the treatment. They block the pituitary gland, which stops estrogen production, thus relieving the pain associated with endometriosis. Women are put on this treatment for up to a maximum 12-month course.

Side effects from the resulting low levels of estrogen, however, are common, and most women will experience at least one or two symptoms commonly associated with the menopause. These include insomnia, headaches, mood swings, acne, dizziness, depression, decreased libido and vaginal dryness, although they usually disappear soon after conventional GnRH treatment ends.

Endometriosis is a condition in which the cells of the womb lining (the endometrium) are found outside the womb, usually in the pelvis and around the womb, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Unlike endometrial cells that are normally found in the uterus and which are shed during menstruation, those that grow outside the uterus remain in place and are stimulated during each menstrual cycle. Over the long term, this process gives rise to pain and can also result in scars or lesions on the tubes, ovaries, and surrounding structures in the pelvis.

Left undiagnosed or untreated, endometriosis can be a frustrating condition. Painful periods can cause a woman to miss work or school, strain sexual relationships, and affect the overall quality of her life. Besides irregular bleeding, endometriosis can also be a cause of infertility.

Dr Strowitzki says that doctors don't know why 15 per cent of fertile women develop endometriosis. 'To be honest, we don't know the risk factors and we don't know which group of women is at risk. We also don't know how to avoid the disease as it's not like cancer,' he adds.

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