Courtesy of AARP

Article originally appeared on AARP

Social media speculation prompts comedian to address painful condition that’s common in women.

Amy Schumer is using online comments about her appearance to educate critics and fans alike about endometriosis, a condition that affects up to 4 percent of postmenopausal women, according to recent research. After Schumer’s recent appearances on The Tonight Show and Good Morning America to promote the new season ofLife & Beth, disparaging jokes were posted on social media about her face, which appeared swollen. Some speculated about what medical condition may have caused the change in her appearance.

Schumer responded to the barrage of comments with her typical sarcastic wit.

“Thank you so much for everyone’s input about my face! I’ve enjoyed feedback and deliberation about my appearance as all women do for almost 20 years. And you’re right it is puffier than normal right now. I have endometriosis …,” she wrote in a Feb. 15 Instagram post, alongside a poster of Season 2 of Life & Beth, which she created, directed and stars in.

The 42-year-old actress said there are some “hormonal things going on in my world right now but I’m ok” and encouraged women to read about the disease.

What is endometriosis and what causes it?

Endometriosis is a disease in which tissues similar to the lining of the uterus — the endometrium — grow in other places in the body. There is no known way to prevent it and no cure, but symptoms can be treated with medicines and sometimes surgery, according to the World Health Organization.

It causes chronic inflammation and irritation that can lead to scar tissue within the pelvis and other parts of the body. It can sometimes cause cysts on the ovaries. Although scientists once thought the disease ended with menopause, research now says 2 to 4 percent of postmenopausal women are affected by endometriosis symptoms. Overall, it affects about 10 percent of women.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes the disease but some theories include:

  • Coelomic metaplasia: Cells outside the uterus change to endometrial-like cells and start to grow.
  • Retrograde menstruation: This occurs when endometriosis cells flow backward through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity during menstruation.
  • Stem cells: It may be that stem cells cause the disease, which spreads through the body via blood and lymphatic vessels.

Symptoms of endometriosis

Unfortunately, the disease is often misdiagnosed and a correct diagnosis takes an average of 7½ years, according to research. It can be mistaken for digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome or spastic colon. Not everyone with the condition has symptoms but the most common ones are:

  • Severe pelvic pain during menstruation, sex, when urinating or with bowel movements
  • Heavy bleeding during or between periods
  • Lower back or abdominal pain 
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Depression or anxiety

If you are experiencing these symptoms, talk to your health care provider, said Megan Wasson, a minimally invasive gynecologic surgeon with Mayo Clinic. Your provider will ask you to describe your symptoms, including the location of the pelvic pain. “Next, they may do a pelvic exam, an ultrasound or an MRI to get a clearer picture of the reproductive organs, including the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes,” Wasson says in an informational video. “To definitively diagnose endometriosis, surgery is required.”

Using laparoscopic surgery, doctors insert a camera through a small incision in the abdomen to look for endometrial-like tissue and remove suspicious tissue for evaluation.

If a woman’s biological mother had the condition, she is seven times more likely to have it, and those with the condition may also have difficulty getting pregnant. Endometriosis is linked to heart disease and ovarian cancer.

Treatment of endometriosis

Although no treatments can cure the disease, medications can help symptoms. These include pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) and hormonal medications like GnRH agonists and contraceptive medications.

If those treatments fail, doctors may perform surgery to remove endometriosis tissue.

Schumer didn’t say whether the condition itself or medications to treat it were causing her symptoms. This is not the first time she has discussed her diagnoses. In 2021, she said that she had surgery to remove her uterus and appendix as a result of the disease.

Schumer strikes back on comments on women’s looks

In addition to encouraging people to become educated about her condition, Schumer pointed out in her Instagram post that women shouldn’t need to justify how they look.

“I also believe a woman doesn’t need any excuse for her physical appearance and owes no explanation,” she wrote. “But I wanted to take the opportunity to advocate for self love and acceptance of the skin you’re in.”

The 2023 AARP Mirror Mirror survey found that a majority of women say they regularly experience discrimination. The poll of 6,643 women found that the discrimination was based mainly on ageism, skin tone/ethnicity and weight. Many women reported feeling the need to adjust their appearance, with about 40 percent of respondents saying they feel pressure from social media to have cosmetic procedures such as Botox and dermal fillers.

But women are increasingly pushing back against comments about their looks. Actress and Family Ties star Justine Bateman recently told aarp.org that women should “opt out of the idea that their faces are broken and have to be fixed.”

Bateman’s book Face: One Square Foot of Skin grew out of this idea.

Schumer said that like most women she sometimes feels terrific and other days like “I want to put a bag over my head.” But overall, she said that she is “strong and beautiful” and proud of her TV show.

“Maybe, just maybe we can focus on that for a little,” she wrote.

#EndometriosisAwareness #AmySchumer #CriticismLessons #LifeAndBeth

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