On Wednesday, talk show host Wendy Williams announced on her show that she had been diagnosed with Graves' disease and related hyperthyroidism. Williams planned to take a three week hiatus beginning Thursday to help ease her symptoms.
"My doctor has prescribed—are you ready?—three weeks of vacation," Williams said during the show's taping. "I was pissed. Encore performances, really?"
Graves' disease is an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid gland, located in the neck, and responsible for metabolic regulation, growth, and development. The disease is caused when the body creates antibodies for the thyroid's stimulating hormones, chronically flooding the body with the hormone thyroxine and leading to hyperthyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism, in turn, means metabolic rates speed up and the gland itself might enlarge. Patients experience sudden weight loss, irritability, shaking or tremors, palpitations, and hair loss. About 30 percent of Graves' disease patients develop a condition called Graves' ophthalmopathy, or inflammation around the eye's muscles and tissues, often causing the bulging eyes Williams said viewers had pointed out in recent months.
Williams' diagnosis comes on the heels of an on-air fainting episode on October 31, which she blamed on being "overheated." Williams said her own symptoms of insomnia and irritability prompted her to check in with her endocrinologist, citing a "cattywampus" thyroid; sensitivity to heat is another oft-reported symptom of Graves' disease.
What causes Graves' disease is unclear, though stress, infection, and pregnancy have been cited as potential causes. And it's more common than one might think: According to the National Institutes of Health, one in 200 people have the disease. Researchers think a combination of environmental factors and genetics could be to blame. The disease also affects women between seven to eight times more than men, which suggests hormonal imbalances may be to blame.
Graves' disease is yet another in a group of autoimmune diseases that have garnered attention from celebrity patients. Other people who have come forward about their diagnosis of Graves' disease include Sia Furler, Missy Elliott, and former President George H. W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush.
Representatives told CNN that Williams will not have a fill-in host and that re-runs would be aired during her hiatus.
"I'll be back in two [weeks]," Williams reassured the audience on Wednesday's show. "I'm not an heiress. Who is going to pay my bills? Are you serious?"
There is no known cure for Graves' disease.