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Wendy Williams to take time off for Graves’ disease: What we know about the condition

What is Graves’ disease? Causes, symptoms, how to treat it

TV personality Wendy Williams on Dec. 10, 2019 in New York City.
TV personality Wendy Williams on Dec. 10, 2019 in New York City. (2019 Getty Images for New York Women in Film & Television)

Earlier this week, talk show host Wendy Williams announced she will take time off from her daytime show for health reasons.

More specifically, Williams said she is struggling with Graves’ disease.

As she works toward better health, here’s a synopsis on the condition she is battling.

What is Graves’ disease?

Graves’ disease is an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones, according to the Mayo Clinic. The thyroid is the butterfly-shaped gland located at the bottom of your neck.

Thyroid hormones affect a number of different systems within the body. Graves’ disease is more common in women than in men.

It is named after Robert Graves, an Irish surgeon who first described it in a patient in 1835.

What are symptoms of Graves’ disease?

  • Enlargement of a thyroid
  • Change in menstrual cycles
  • Fatigue
  • Bulging eyes
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Thick, red skin
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • A fine tremor of hands or fingers
  • Weight loss

What causes Graves’ disease?

Scientists really have no way to determine what causes Graves’ disease or who will develop it, according to Healthline. But stress, age, family history and smoking are a few things that can increase the risk of getting it.

What are ways to treat Graves’ disease?

There are three main ways to treat it, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Radioactive iodine therapy. You take this by mouth. The radioactivity from radioiodine goes into thyroid cells and kills the overactive cells over time, causing the thyroid to shrink.
  • Medications. These can include anti-thyroid medications, including prescription medications propylthiouracil and methimazole, or beta blockers that block the effect of hormones on the body.
  • Surgery. Removing all or part of the thyroid is another form of treatment.

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