Endometriosis is characterized by endometrial-like tissue (the tissue that lines the uterus) growing outside of the uterus and forming lesions. These lesions respond to the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle in the same way as the normal endometrial tissue. However, because they are located outside the uterus they cannot leave the body with menstruation. This causes inflammation, pain, and sometimes infertility.

There is no cure for endometriosis, but there are treatments that can help control symptoms of the disease.

What are testosterone derivatives?

Testosterone derivatives are a class of medications that are chemically similar to testosterone. Testosterone is a hormone that controls the development of masculine physical features. Women have testosterone, too, but in much smaller amounts.

Danocrine (danazol) and gestrinone are the most common testosterone derivatives used to treat endometriosis, though gestrinone is not used in the U.S. or Canada.

How testosterone derivatives treat endometriosis

The primary hormones that control menstruation are estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is produced by the ovaries, but also is produced by endometrial lesions. An increase in estrogen production around menstruation causes the uterine lining to shed, and the endometrial lesions to try to shed, too, causing the symptoms of endometriosis. Many hormonal treatments for endometriosis are targeted at reducing or controlling the production of estrogen.

Testosterone and testosterone derivatives block the production of estrogen in the ovaries, and bind to progesterone, preventing it from acting on its receptors, thereby chemically inducing menopause. When the amount of estrogen present is reduced, the endometrial lesions shrink and inflammation also is reduced, which can greatly reduce the pain experienced by endometriosis patients.

Other information

Testosterone derivatives are generally used after other medications have failed to relieve the symptoms of endometriosis because many women experience side effects from these treatments. Most women will stop menstruating while taking testosterone derivatives, but also may experience a decrease in breast size, weight gain, hair growth, and a deepening of the voice. More rarely, patients may experience acne, muscle cramps, muscle weakness or fatigue, chest pain, nausea, and diarrhea.


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