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What Is Graves’ Disease? Learn More About Wendy Williams’ Auto-Immune Disorder

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Last month, Wendy Williams told fans that she was taking an extended hiatus from her eponymous talk show to focus on her health following a Graves’ Disease diagnosis. In an exclusive interview with Life & Style, Denise Pate, MD — an internal medicine physician with Medical Offices of Manhattan — offers insight about the auto-immune disorder and how it might effect Wendy’s health.

"Graves' Disease is an auto-immune disorder that causes overproduction of thyroid hormone leading to hyperthyroidism. It is caused by an antibody called thyrotropin receptor antibody (TRAb) binding to thyroid cell receptors resulting in the increased release of thyroid hormones and thyroid growth that can alter our body's function," Dr. Pate — who does not treat Wendy — explains. "Some of the common symptoms associated with Graves' Disease are palpitations, tachycardia, hand tremors, weight loss, muscle weakness, fatigue, erectile dysfunction [for men], and irregular menstrual cycles [for women]."

Dr. Pate tells Life & Style that Wendy, and anyone else who suffers from Graves’ Disease, might "experience bulging of the eyes, called Graves' ophthalmopathy, where the tissues around the eyes are so inflamed that they bulge from their sockets. This may cause double vision, eye pressure, light sensitivity, and dry eyes."

The disorder can also have a debilitating effect on one’s muscles, bones, and even their heart. "One's heart rhythm and contractility can be affected by Graves' Disease resulting in an increased heart rate," says Dr. Pate, "resulting in palpitations or an irregular heart rhythm that can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, blood clots, and stroke."

According to Dr. Pate, Wendy was right to press pause on her career. "Taking time off to focus on one's health related to hyperthyroidism is important — this will help ensure proper treatment and dosing of medications needed to readjust the thyroid function," she says. "Thyroid levels take time to ‘normalize,’ it may require several medication dose changes before finding the right one — one may continue to experience some of the symptoms mentioned above until thus removing external stressors such as work may help."

While there is no "cure" for Graves’ Disease, there are several treatment options that are able to potentially eradicate many of its associated symptoms — including radioiodine therapy, medication, or thyroid surgery. Dr. Pate also tells Life & Style that simple lifestyle changes can improve the health of Graves’ Disease patients.

"Some precautions one should take to improve thyroid health is eating a balanced diet, taking multivitamins such as vitamin b12 and vitamin C, avoid/limit alcohol use and smoking, keeping other comorbities under control (such as controlling one's blood pressure or diabetes)," she advises. "And decreasing emotional and physical stress."

Wendy recently revealed that she will be returning to her show on Monday, March 19. Until then, actor Jerry O’Connell will fill in. "Jerry has been such a good friend to me and to the show," the media mogul said in a statement. "We’re happy to welcome him as a guest host while I’m out getting much needed rest. Can’t wait to get back in my purple chair!"

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