Social media isn’t always about trying to create the illusion of a perfect life (though it often is). Sometimes, it allows people to open up to the public in a way they normally wouldn’t. For instance, Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley revealed her struggle with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis in an Instagram post last week. In the post, she talked about getting diagnosed with endometriosis at 15, finding out about her PCOS and the symptoms of both conditions, and the treatment and support she’s received since then.
Thankfully, Ridley isn’t alone. An increasing number of female celebrities have been speaking out regarding their reproductive health issues. Lena Dunham has been very open about her own struggles with endometriosis; back in March, she used her Instagram to thank her supporters while recovering from surgery for a ruptured ovarian cyst. Other celebs who’ve revealed that they have PCOS include Victoria Beckham and Emma Thompson, while Dolly Parton, Susan Sarandon, and Whoopi Goldberg have openly talked about their problems with endometriosis.
So what are PCOS and endometriosis? PCOS is a hormonal and endocrine condition that affects up to 10 percent of women and maybe more (according to the PCOS Foundation, over 50 percent of women with the condition aren’t diagnosed). Symptoms may include unexpected weight gain, excessive hairiness or hair loss, irregular periods, and acne. Endometriosis occurs when tissue resembling the lining of the uterus is found elsewhere in the body, usually on surrounding parts such as the ovaries or pelvic sidewall. Symptoms include pelvic pain and, in more severe cases, internal scarring. Yeah.
You may be wondering why we don’t hear more about these conditions — it’s because they’re women’s health issues involving the reproductive system, and are therefore considered “gross.” Or rather, they were. By speaking out, Ridley and her fellow female celebrities are helping changing that, as well as encouraging women to trust and take care of their bodies.
“My point is, to any of you who are suffering with anything, go to a doctor; pay for a specialist; get your hormones tested, get allergy testing; keep on top of how your body is feeling and don’t worry about sounding like a hypochondriac,” she wrote. “From your head to the tips of your toes we only have one body, let us all make sure ours our working in tip top condition, and take help if it’s needed.”
Although endometriosis and PCOS aren’t discussed as much as they should be, they can have hugely negative effects: untreated endometriosis can seriously lower fertility, and untreated PCOS (in the worst-case scenario) can lead to complications such as Type 2 diabetes, infertility, and uterine cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. Endometriosis and PCOS are still all too frequently undiagnosed or misdiagnosed by doctors, and doctors tend to pay less attention to women’s pain and reproductive health issues in general. That’s why it’s so wonderful that Ridley and other famous women are spreading awareness about these conditions — knowing more now may help to prevent life-changing health problems later.
If you want proof, just look at the comments on Ridley’s Instagram post. They’re full of women and girls thanking Ridley and sharing their own stories; for example, one user wrote, “I have endo and PCOS as well, and at 36 my battle with the pain has been lifelong and hard. Still struggling, but nothing can keep us down if we speak up and advocate for ourselves.”
It doesn’t have to be an “if” anymore. The outpouring of mutual support that greeted Ridley’s post showed that women are ready to speak up — all we need is someone to listen.
Original by Kelly Kanayama