‘Star Wars’ Actress Daisy Ridley Opens Up About Painful Health Condition and Skin Woes

Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
·Contributing Writer
image

Daisy Ridley talked about her skin concerns on Instagram, caused by the painful health conditions polycystic ovaries and endometriosis. (Photo: Instagram)

Actress Daisy Ridley bravely took to Instagram on Thursday to open up about her experiences with endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, a condition the 24-year-old actress has experienced since age 15.

She explained how the latter condition was apparently the root cause of the skin issues she has long dealt with and which she says have done serious damage to her self-confidence:

At 15 I was diagnosed with endometriosis. One laparoscopy, many consultations and 8 years down the line, pain was back (more mild this time!) and my skin was THE WORST. I’ve tried everything: products, antibiotics, more products, more antibiotics) and all that did was left my body in a bit of a mess. Finally found out I have polycycstic ovaries and that’s why it’s bad. I can safely say feeling so self conscious has left my confidence in tatters. I hate wearing make up but I currently don’t want to leave the house without it on. HOWEVER PROGRESS IS BEING MADE! (With some help from a dermatologist and cutting out dairy (waah, except for spontaneous ice creams) and cutting down sugar (bigger waah but gotta do what you’ve gotta do)). Finally. Finally. (Throughout all this I’ve only had people being wonderful and encouraging and occasionally making me realise I’m being ridiculous and there’s more to life)… 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. 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.

So what are PCOS and endometriosis and what do you need to know about these two gynecologic conditions?

First, it’s important to understand that while both conditions fall under the realm of things-you-should-talk-to-your-gynecologist-about, they’re not related. You can have endometriosis without having PCOS, and vice versa. (Riley apparently happens to have both.)

Endometriosis affects an estimated one in 10 women and is a disorder that can cause pain. The condition in which the tissue that normally builds in the lining of the uterus (and sheds itself during your period) grows in the body in places other than the uterus. But the tissue doesn’t realize it’s not in the uterus and continues to grow and shed itself in synch with your period — and since the tissue doesn’t have an exit route, it can cause buildup of (really, really) painful deposits in the body.

But pain is not always attached to endometriosis, and many women with the condition may not feel a thing. And the amount of endometrial buildup in the body has nothing to do with amount of pain a person ends up experiencing. Other symptoms can include painful periods, pain during sex, diarrhea, nausea, constipating, bloating, and, depending on where the endometrial deposits build, infertility. In fact, many women may not even be aware of their endometriosis until they try to get pregnant and face challenges — and diagnostic testing leads to the discovery of endometrial tissue in the abdomen and pelvis, on the ovaries, or in the fallopian tubes, which can cause scarring that might prevent pregnancy from being able to occur. The only way endometriosis can be definitively diagnosed is through laparoscopic surgery.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may also cause infertility, but it’s a totally separate and different condition. A disorder of the endocrine — or hormone-regulating — system, PCOS gets its name from the growth of tiny, fluid-filled cysts that grow on the ovaries of some women with the condition. But these cysts, also called follicles, may not be present in all patients with PCOS. Though symptoms of PCOS can range from substantial weight gain to severe acne to excess body hair, in order to formally be diagnosed with the condition, a doctor looks for a patient to exhibit two out of three things: irregular periods (including menstrual cycles longer than 35 days each, fewer than eight menstrual cycles a year; failure to have a period for four months or longer; or periods that are abnormally long and either unusually heavy or unusually light); an excess of male hormones (measured through simple blood tests, though also often physically exhibited through, as mentioned, symptoms like body hair, acne, or male-pattern baldness in women); or the presence of the fluid-filled cysts on the ovaries themselves. Like endometriosis, PCOS can “look” and feel differently from woman to woman. For example, because of hormonal irregularities, many women with PCOS are overweight and may struggle with trying to lose weight, while some face the opposite challenge, being underweight and struggling to gain weight.

One thing shared by both PCOS and endometriosis is that there is no conclusive, exact cause for either condition. It is suspected that endometriosis might be caused by anything from a woman having a tilted uterus and thus having what’s known as retrograde menstruation — when menstrual blood flows back into the body as a result of the shape of the anatomy — to being an effect of autoimmune disease. PCOS is suspected to be caused by some combination of an excess of insulin (the hormone that allows the body to process sugar for energy) in the body to constant low-grade inflammation to genetics.

Another crucial similarity of the two disorders is that, with a physician’s counsel, both conditions can be effectively managed.

Hormonal contraception — like the birth control pill — is often a first line of defense in management of both PCOS and endometriosis, to create regularity of hormones in the body. Women with endometriosis might also undergo surgery to remove the endometrial deposits in their body to help manage pain and prevent the scarring that might cause infertility. For women with extreme cases, a hysterectomy is sometimes recommended. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen are also typically used to help with management of symptoms.

Some women with PCOS are also prescribed metformin, an oral medication typically given to people with diabetes to help improve insulin resistance and lower insulin levels. Often metformin can assist women with PCOS in regulating their periods. Another crucial step for women with PCOS is maintaining a healthy weight — either losing or gaining weight to achieve a more standard BMI that can often have a significant impact on hormone levels and symptoms. Limiting simple carbs and choosing complex carbs, sometimes referred to as the glycemic index (or GI) diet, can also help PCOS patients.