In a Facebook post on Monday night, Girls creator, producer and star Lena Dunham announced she'd be taking time off from work and her publicity obligations for the forthcoming season of the HBO show until she recovers from a "rough patch" of endometriosis.
Endometriosis occurs in a woman when endometrial tissues, which make up the mucous membrane lining the uterus and which sheds during menstruation, form outside the uterus, often collecting in the pelvic cavity. This can result in severe pain, among a slew of other symptoms.
Dunham's announcement is likely to bring recognition to the more than 176 million women around the world with this largely ignored and underfunded disease.
According to Dunham's post, approximately 10% of women who are of reproductive age experience the effects "and yet often their primary care doctors do not know what it is and the specialists to whom they are sent are ill-informed," the Guardian wrote in September.
"Vast numbers of women are under-treated or badly treated," the Guardian adds, noting it's frequently dismissed as "women's troubles." "It can take years to get a diagnosis and during that time women may suffer severe pain and are unable to work, socialize or maintain a sexual relationship."
As a consequence of its neglect, millions of women are left in the dark, enduring extreme pain for reasons unbeknownst to them. And the consequence of severe, chronic pain, including that of women coping with endometriosis, cannot be understated: According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "physical illness or uncontrollable pain are major factors in up to 70% of suicides." A Google search of "endometriosis" and "suicide" will turn up an array of anecdotal evidence linking the two.
Women's reproductive health care — and diseases such as this one fall under that umbrella — has been under attack in the United States of late, with Republicans campaigning to defund Planned Parenthood in 2015. Millions of women, particularly those of limited means, receive their health care through Planned Parenthood facilities, which have the capacity to help diagnose and treat such illnesses.
Dunham alluded to endometriosis' intractable toll in her post, highlighting her privilege in both obtaining an accurate diagnosis and having the luxury to take time off to attend to her health.
"So many women with this disease literally don't have the option of time off and I won't take it for granted," she wrote.