Recently, talk show host Wendy Williams made national news when she informed her audience that she would be taking a hiatus from TV due to her diagnosis of Graves disease. Wendy Williams is not the first celebrity to be afflicted with this disease. Rapper Missy Elliott has also been vocal about her bout with Graves disease.
What is Graves Disease?
Graves disease is an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid that causes an overproduction of thyroid hormones.
The thyroid gland is a piece of glandular tissue shaped like a butterfly that sits in front of the windpipe. Thyroid hormones control body temperature, body weight, metabolism, brain development, cholesterol levels, and other physical and cognitive functioning.
Graves disease is much more common in women than men and affects approximately 10 million people. Unfortunately, as with most autoimmune diseases, the cause is unknown. However, those with a family history of Graves disease are more likely to develop the disease.
What are the signs of Graves Disease?
Signs and symptoms of Graves disease vary from person to person but can include any of the following:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Brittle hair skin nails
- Hair loss
- Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)
- Increase heart rate
- Intolerance to heat
- Proptosis (Bulging eyes)
- Thyroid Storm
Overall, the most of the signs and symptoms of Graves disease can improve with treatment. However, should a person develop ‘thyroid storm’, their life can be in danger.
Thyroid storm occurs in people with untreated Graves disease. They develop a high temperature, increased anxiety, heart palpitations, increased heart rate, other metabolic changes, and can lead to death. Thyroid storm is a life-threatening emergency.
How is Graves Disease diagnosed?
An enlarged thyroid is typically discovered during a routine physical examination. The practitioner will feel a change in the size and/or texture of the thyroid gland.
Diagnosing Graves disease involves a simple blood test to check the levels of thyroid hormones secreted.
How is Graves Disease treated?
Treating Graves disease depends on the severity of the disease. Treatment may only include medication, or it could include radioactive iodine, or even surgical removal of the gland. Those who’s thyroid is removed can lead normal lives with hormone replacement therapy.
If you have these symptoms, please contact your healthcare professional for an examination.
The information in this article is to be used for informational purposes only. It is NOT to be used in place of, or in conjunction with, professional medical advice. Anyone with questions regarding this or other medical issues discussed on this site must consult their physician for further information and treatment.
Compiled using sources from:
- American Thyroid Association (www.thyroid.org)
- Graves Disease & Thyroid Foundation (www.gdatf.org)