Endometriosis is a chronic disorder in which cell tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of it, causing cysts or extra tissue to grow in other parts of the body. These growths can lead to painful periods, painful sex and fertility problems.
Most women don’t realize that endometriosis is the source of their severe menstrual cramps and abdominal pain. They are not alone. One in six women suffer from endometriosis, which impacts millions of women worldwide — but most have never heard of it.
Severe abdominal pain isn’t normal. Yet, women who experience the intense pelvic pain of endometriosis often think it is normal. Many have dealt with symptoms since the onset of their very first menstrual period. Dancer-actress Julianne Hough was one of those women.
“I thought that this was just the kind of pain you have when you’re on your period,” Hough, told PEOPLE magazine in February 2018. “For years, I was just thinking that was normal and never really talked about it.”
After being rushed to the hospital due to debilitating abdominal cramps in 2008, Hough underwent surgery to remove a cyst. She later announced that she had been diagnosed with endometriosis.
She now helps raise awareness about endometriosis through the “Get in the Know About ME in EndoMEtriosis” campaign. “I don’t care about being private about this anymore because I really want the women that are going through debilitating pain to benefit from my story or this campaign,” said Hough during her PEOPLE interview.
Many other celebrities have shared their struggles with endometriosis, in the hope that more women will learn about it and seek proper diagnosis and treatment. Comedienne and actress Whoopi Goldberg says she speaks out about endometriosis to raise awareness because she realized there are probably “hundreds of thousands of girls out there that don’t know.”
Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon suffered for years before she received an endometriosis diagnosis. “When all you know is pain, you don’t know that it is not normal,” she recently shared. “It is not a woman’s lot to suffer, even if we’ve been raised that way.”
Singer Halsey has shared her endometriosis experiences with other young women via Twitter, according to articles in Women’s Health and The Huffington Post. In a recent tweet Halsey wrote, “Emo moment; but if any of you suffer from endometriosis please know you aren’t alone. I know how excruciatingly painful it can be and how discouraging the disease can be. To feel like it’s gonna limit you…To miss school and work, or even worse to GO and suffer through it anyway feeling like a prisoner in your own body.”
“Ovarian cysts and infertility are often secondary issues that co-occur with endometriosis,” says David Adhoot, MD, a gynecologist with miVIP Surgery Centers in Los Angeles. “If a woman has a history of heavy bleeding and terrible abdominal pain with menstruation, and trouble getting pregnant, we immediately explore the possibility that she may have underlying endometriosis.”
Dr. Ahdoot explains that endometriosis can be challenging to diagnose and treat, because the associated cysts can recur in various locations in a woman’s body. However, the process is made easier with minimally invasive techniques using the advanced robotics equipment that Dr. Ahdoot utilizes at miVIP Surgery Centers.
“The very precise instrumentation and magnified viewing capability of the da Vinci Surgical System at miVIP enhances my ability to identify and treat a patient during a single procedure,” Dr. Ahdoot explains. “Through a tiny incision, I can locate and remove the cysts hiding in the delicate tissue of a woman’s reproductive system — improving her fertility and eliminating the source of her pain with minimal impact on her body.” Dr. Ahdoot says that his patients typically feel better almost immediately, and are back to their usual activities within days.
Actress Lena Dunham, the star of “Girls” on HBO, has posted about her endometriosis experiences on Instagram, stressing the importance of getting evaluation and treatment by an experienced gynecologist. Dunham has credited her “amazing doctors” for treating a ruptured ovarian cyst and other issues related to her endometriosis.
This article was medically reviewed by David Ahdoot, MD, as part of miVIP’s Healthy Living Recommendations. To learn more about Dr. Ahdoot, read his BIO in our miVIP Physician Directory.