Julianne Hough is part of the 10 percent of women who suffer from endometriosis. Though she started having symptoms when she was 15, she wasn’t properly diagnosed until 2008 when the heavy bleeding and pain forced her to take time off from Dancing with the Stars for surgery and recovery.
“When I started to talk about it, I heard from fans on Twitter saying ‘thank you so much for talking about this,’ or ‘I think this sounds like me, can you tell me more?’” Hough told SheKnows.
To help people learn about the condition, Hough has become the face of an awareness campaign called "Get in the Know about ME in Endometriosis.”
The dancer and actor stressed the importance of women being able to talk about the condition openly and being supportive of each other.
“So even if you’re not the me in endometriosis, there might be someone around you who might be,” she added. “It’s all about starting this conversation. I want to be a voice and a person who can help women.”
According to Dr. Rebecca Brightman, an OB-GYN based in New York, endometriosis happens when implants similar to the lining of the uterus are found outside of the uterus and results in heavy, painful periods. It can also cause pain during sex and complications getting pregnant, she told SheKnows.
“In general, there’s a lack of awareness among women and among physicians too,” Brightman explained.
Despite the fact that many women deal with chronic pain, their doctors might not consider endometriosis to be the cause.
“The importance of the campaign is for women to realize ‘this could be me; I may have this condition. I need to discuss this with my health care provider.’ They need to raise this issue,” Brightman said. “They may be depriving themselves of appropriate treatment.”
It took Hough years to get an accurate diagnosis. That’s not uncommon. It takes the average person six to 10 years to be properly diagnosed with endometriosis.
“You don’t want to be living with debilitating pain for that long,” Hough said.
Now, after being open about her condition, any time Hough has an episode — what she calls a particularly rough endometriosis experience — she knows that her friends, family and fiancé understand.
“I don’t feel like I need to push through it — or that I’m weak,” she said. “It’s a huge misconception about with women and periods and everything. They feel like they can’t talk about it — to be open and have a voice. Just being able to be open and have a voice is really important to me.”
For more information and educational resources, including an endometriosis checklist and symptoms tracker, please visit www.MeInEndo.com. You can also join the conversation using #MeInEndo.