Lena Dunham opens up about shaving her head while battling an 'autoimmune disease'

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 26: Lena Dunham attends the Friendly House 30th Annual Awards Luncheon on October 26, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images for Friendly House)
Lena Dunham claims she shaved her head two-and-a-half years ago after developing an 'autoimmune disease'. She is pictured at the Friendly House 30th Annual Awards Luncheon in October last year in LA. (Getty Images)

Lena Dunham has opened up about shaving her head while battling an “autoimmune disease”.

The Girls actress, 33, told her 2.9 million Instagram followers she took the plunge two-and-a-half years ago.

Read more: Lena Dunham says she uses a cane for Ehler-Danlos syndrome flare up: ‘I need support’

Posting a picture with long tresses, Dunham added she shaved her head “not in a fun sassy way but in a ‘my hair is all falling out from my autoimmune disease, better rush to the nearest barber shop and pay them 7 bucks to do this’ way”.

The Not That Kind of Girl author confessed she “didn’t have very many health answers” and worried people would think she had “another erratic hair cut”.

She called her hair growth a “living metaphor”, adding she may well shave her head again, “just for fun this time”.

Dunham did not disclose what “autoimmune disease” she was suffering from, however, she has previously posted about having Ehler-Danlos syndrome (EDS).

This is not the first health scare the actress has endured.

In 2018, Dunham revealed she suffers from fibromyalgia, chronic widespread pain.

Read more: 10 Common Symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome — as Told by Memes

That same year, she published an essay in Vogue detailing a hysterectomy she had at just 31 to combat endometriosis.

This painful condition occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows elsewhere in the body, usually the ovaries or fallopian tubes.

Now sober, Dunham also admitted to “misusing benzos” for “a solid three years”.

Formally known as benzodiazepines, the sedatives were reportedly prescribed to treat her anxiety, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 04:  Actress Lena Dunham attends the Rape Foundation's annual brunch at Greenacres, The Private Estate of Ron Burkle on October 4, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
The 'Girls' actress used to have short hair. She is pictured at the Rape Foundation's annual brunch in Beverly Hill in October 2015. (Getty Images)

What is Ehler-Danlos syndrome?

EDS is a group of 13 inherited disorders that affect connective tissue, most of which are “very rare”.

Connective tissue lies between the organs and tissue, holding them in place, like the mortar between bricks.

The syndrome is thought to affect one in every 2,500 to 5,000 people to some extent.

Symptoms include an increased range of movement, “stretchy” skin and fragile skin that breaks or bruises easily.

Hair loss is not recognised as a tell-tale sign of the condition, however, some report having weak brittle locks that do not grow well.

For some the symptoms are mild, while others find the disorder disabling.

In severe cases, it can be life-threatening.

The most common form of the disorder is hypermobile EDS.

These patients often endure loose, unstable joints that dislocate easily, are painful and “click”.

Extreme fatigue, dizziness, heart burn and constipation can also occur.

Read more: Making Peace With My Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Diagnosis

Hypermobile EDS can also affect the internal organs, leading to prolapse - when an organ “slips” from its normal position - or urinary incontinence.

The most serious form of the syndrome is vascular EDS.

This affects the blood vessels and internal organs, which can cause them to “split open”, triggering life-threatening internal bleeding.

EDS is genetic, with mutations causing connective tissue to weaken.

It can be inherited from just one parent or occur “randomly” for the first time within the sufferer.

Despite Dunham’s post, The Ehlers-Danlos Society stresses EDS is not an autoimmune disorder.

There is no set diagnosis test, with doctors identifying the syndrome via a person’s medical history and a physical examination.

EDS also has no cure or defined treatment plan.

Symptoms may be managed via a physiotherapist, occupational therapist or counselling if a patient is struggling to cope with the pain.

Patients have to be cautious not to put too much strain on their joints.

The NHS adds, however, “it's also important not to be overprotective and avoid living an otherwise normal life”.

Some patients may be told to avoid heavy lifting or contact sports, while others may just have to wear protective gear or learn the correct technique for these activities.

Low-impact exercise like swimming may be a suitable option for staying fit.