Are GnRH Agonists An Effective Treatment For Endometriosis? How Do They Work?

If you suffer from severe endometriosis symptoms, you've likely done a lot of research on how to find relief. One of the most effective nonsurgical treatments for endometriosis involves the use of GnRH agonists, which affect your body's hormone production.

Endometriosis symptoms begin when endometrial tissue starts growing in your body in a location other than the inside of your uterus, which is the only place where endometrial tissue is supposed to be. GnRH agonists effectively treat endometriosis symptoms by eliminating the hormones that tell endometrial tissue to start growing, preventing the stray tissue from becoming a problem.

Below, you'll find some helpful information about how GnRH agonists work as endometriosis treatment, which may help you decide if this treatment is right for you.

What Are GnRH Agonists and Why Are They Used for Endometriosis Treatment?

GnRH agonists hyperstimulate your gonadal hormone production, which eventually causes it to cease. In effect, it causes your ovaries to stop producing estrogen and progesterone. Once you stop taking the GnRH agonist, your ovaries will slowly regain their function and begin to produce hormones again until your hormones are at their natural levels.

The reason why GnRH agonists are used to treat endometriosis is that they stop your menstrual cycle. With no hormones being produced by your ovaries, your endometrial tissue no longer receives any signals that it should start growing. This includes the endometrial tissue that's found outside your uterus, which is responsible for the symptoms of endometriosis. With no hormone signaling to activate it, the endometrial tissue slowly begins to wither away. Once it has shrunk, your endometriosis symptoms will be greatly reduced—in many cases, they'll be eliminated entirely.

There are a few different ways that you can take GnRH agonists. The most common way is to have it injected by a physician. GnRH injections come in two varieties—one is effective for a month, and the other is effective for three months. Typically, your physician will begin with a one-month injection to see how well you tolerate GnRH agonists, and then move you up to a three-month injection if the medication is effective for you.

Aside from injections, GnRH agonists can also be administered with a nasal spray that you use yourself. Oral GnRH agonists have also recently become available. If you have a fear of needles, then these options may be more suitable for you.

Do GnRH Agonists Have Side Effects?

GnRH agonists turn off your gonadal estrogen production, and this is the same thing that happens during menopause. Because of this, you can expect to have menopausal symptoms as a side effect of your treatment. These symptoms can include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia, and mood swings.

However, don't let this scare you away from using GnRH agonists for endometriosis treatment—menopausal symptoms can be managed with add-back therapy. In add-back therapy, you take small doses of estrogen and progesterone in order to keep menopausal symptoms at bay. The level of hormones you take during add-back therapy is so small that it avoids signaling endometrial tissue to grow.

For more information, contact an endometriosis specialist.

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