Hormonal contraceptives for the medical treatment of endometriosis
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Milano, Milano,
Drugs used in the treatment of endometriosis are not cytoreductive and
quiescent implants have been demonstrated in nearly all women treated with
danazol, GnRH agonists and progestogens.
Medical therapy is symptomatic and pain release at treatment suspension is
Hormonal contraceptive preparations are effective in controlling pain
symptoms in approximately three out of four women with endometriosis. Their
effect does not seem to be inferior to that obtained with other drugs habitually
used in treating the disease. Medical treatment plays a role in the overall
therapeutic strategy only if it can be administered over a prolonged period of
time. Given their good tolerability, minor metabolic effects and low cost,
hormonal contraceptives must therefore be considered the drugs of choice.
The effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives is probably partly due to the
proven anti-inflammatory effect of progestogens. Most pelvic lesions associated
with endometriosis are secondary to the strong inflammatory state caused by the
metabolic activity of ectopic endometrium and to the resulting immune response.
Furthermore, patients with endometriosis experience heavier menstruations than
women without the disease. The reduction of menstrual flow observed with the use
of OC or the levonorgestrel IUD can limit pelvic contamination caused by
Hormonal contraceptives are currently the only safe and inexpensive
alternative to surgery. However, their contraceptive activity limits their use
to women who do not wish to have children in the short term.