Wendy Williams Takes Time Away From Her Show Due to 'Serious' Health Issues—What to Know About Graves' Disease
Wendy Williams is taking time away from her show due to "serious complications" with her Graves' disease and thyroid condition.
The Wendy Williams Show made the announcement in an Instagram post on October 12.
"Wendy continues to be under medical supervision and meets with her medical team on a daily basis," the post said. "She is making progress but is experiencing serious complications as a direct result of Graves' Disease and her thyroid condition. It has been determined that more time is needed before she is able to return to her live hosting duties."
The 57-year-old host first announced in February 2018 that she had been diagnosed with Graves' disease, an autoimmune disorder that results in hyperthyroidism. During that announcement, Williams explained some of the symptoms she had been experiencing, such as trouble sleeping, rapid heart rate, and bulging eyes. At the time, the television personality took a doctor-ordered three-week hiatus from her show.
So far, Williams has yet to disclose the exact complications that have led her to step away this time or for how long she will be gone. "We want her health to be her top priority. As soon as she's ready, she will be back in her treasured purple chair," the show said in its statement.
Here's what to know about Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism.
What is Graves' disease?
Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder, meaning it causes the body's immune system to mistakenly attack its own cells. Graves' causes the thyroid to kick into overdrive—an umbrella diagnosis called hyperthyroidism. Although there are other causes, Graves' is the most common reason people develop hyperthyroidism, according to the American Thyroid Association.
What are the symptoms of Graves' disease?
The thyroid gland produces a slew of hormones that the body needs to function properly. So when it becomes overactive, producing too many of these hormones, many of the body's systems can go haywire, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms can run the gamut from weight loss (despite normal eating habits) and fatigue to period changes and hand tremors.
In addition to the general symptoms of hyperthyroidism, Graves' disease can also cause eye and skin issues. About 30% of patients with it develop Graves' ophthalmology, which can result in bulging eyes and inflammation and swelling of the surrounding tissues. (In her 2018 diagnosis announcement, Williams mentioned that the disease has caused her eyeballs to twitch, a symptom viewers noticed before she did.) A small subset of patients may also get Graves' dermopathy, according to the Mayo Clinic, which causes reddening and thickening of the skin on the front of the shins and the tops of the feet.
Per the Mayo Clinic, other symptoms of Graves' disease can include:
How is Graves' disease treated?
"The primary treatment goals are to reduce the amount of thyroid hormones that the body produces and lessen the severity of symptoms," according to the Mayo Clinic.
Some medications tone down hyperthyroidism by targeting excess iodine, which the thyroid needs to produce hormones, while others block the effects of the hormones once they're made, according to the Mayo Clinic. In some cases, doctors may opt for surgery to remove part of the thyroid.
Patients who develop skin and eye issues may also require treatment for those specific symptoms, including over-the-counter remedies, prescription steroids, and sometimes surgery.
"Without treatment, Graves' disease can cause serious health problems, including an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related problems," as well as thinning bones and osteoporosis, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases.
Who is at risk for Graves' disease?
While it is known that it is a malfunction in the body's disease-fighting immune system that causes Graves' disease, it is now known why that happens, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Women get the disease much more frequently than men, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health. In fact, the American Thyroid Association reports that it is seven to eight times more common in women than men. Graves' disease is also more likely to develop in someone who is younger than 40, per the Mayo Clinic. Besides sex and age, other risk factors include a family history, a history of other autoimmune disorders or certain infections, recent pregnancy, smoking, and severe emotional stress or trauma.
The start of this season of The Wendy Williams Show was originally scheduled for September 20. But after the host tested positive for a breakthrough case of COVID-19, the start date was pushed to October 4. The start date was pushed back again, to October 18, after the show announced she was still under doctor's care and not ready to return to work due to "ongoing medical issues." The October 18 start date remains, but until Williams returns to her show, there will be guest hosts and panels to fill her place.
Williams also took some time off from her show back in May 2020 due to Graves'. "Wendy has been dealing with symptoms from her Graves' disease, which is causing fatigue," a spokesperson for the show told PEOPLE. "In consultation with her doctor and as a precautionary measure, she will be taking some time off as she continues to receive treatment."
The breaks she has taken from her show to care for her health is a page from her own playbook. When she first announced her diagnosis publicly in 2018, she encouraged people to make their health a priority after putting off her endocrinology appointment to have her thyroid levels checked for six months. "What I want to say to women, more than men, is stop putting everyone first because if we're not good, they're not good," she said during her diagnosis announcement. "I love doing the show, but I love me more. So I'm going to take care of me, so I can be there for them," she said.
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