Julianne Hough has spoken candidly about her struggle with endometriosis to help raise awareness about the debilitating, and incurable, disease.
Endometriosis is when the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of it, which can lead to pain and infertility. From 15 years old, the dancer and actor suffered from intense pain and heavy bleeding during and between her periods, which a number of doctors said was normal.
"For the longest time, I thought: This is the way my period is," she told Glamour. "I didn't want to complain, so I'd just deal with it and ignore it."
But after being admitted to hospital suffering unbearable pain and heavy bleeding while performing on Dancing with the Stars, she was diagnosed with endometriosis.
The 28-year-old told Today that the diagnosis came as a relief.
"It sort of gives you peace of mind, like a name to the pain," she explained. "Just knowing that I'm not the only one who feels this and that I'm not overreacting."
She described the pain as as sudden and excruciating.
"This feels like sharp, dagger pains, and it's almost instant," she said. "It comes out of nowhere, and all of a sudden I'll be like, 'Oh, crap,' and then it will last for a minute and then go away. And then another sharp pain, and then it will subside."
Julianne is now the face of a campaign called "Get in the know about ME in endoMEtriosis” and she’s trying to break down the stigma around the disease. Particularly given that new research has found women are suffering for an average of eight years before being diagnosed.
"I realised how important it was for me to be open and bring awareness," Hough told Glamour. "I got a floodgate of comments and followers—people were coming together and supporting each other. I feel really great about that. It gives me a reason to keep being open."
If you’re experiencing symptoms like heavy bleeding during or between periods and painful cramps, speak to a medical professional.