Mind and Body

Missy Elliott Battles Graves' Disease, But What Is It?

Miss Elliott fans have probably been wondering where the singer/rapper has been for the past three years – but now they have an answer.

Elliott has been battling an autoimmune disorder known as Graves’ disease. It’s the most common form of hyperthyroidism (overactivity of the thyroid gland), which occurs when there’s abnormal immune system response, and as a result, causes the thyroid gland to overproduce the hormone thyroxine.

Elliott, 39, told People Magazine that the disease was so debilitating that she couldn’t write or drive a car.

"I couldn't keep the brake down and almost crashed," she told People. She added that she couldn't "even use a pen."

Graves’ disease is more common in women and usually occurs after the age of 20, although men can get the disorder as well.

Elliott also revealed that she suffered from common symptoms of Graves’ disease, which for her included mood swings, dizzy spells, hair loss, bulging eyes and lumps in her throat.

Other common symptoms include:

- Anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue
- Heat sensitivity
- Increased appetite
- Increased sweating
- Insomnia
- Menstrual irregularities
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Weight loss, despite eating regularly
- Frequent bowel movements

For Elliott, radiation treatments have helped decrease her symptoms along with exercise. She’s lost 30 pounds.

“My thyroid is functioning, so I haven't had to take medication in about nine months. [But] you live with it for the rest of your life,” she told the magazine.

Elliott has to live with Graves’ disease for the rest of her life because it’s incurable, but treatments to control the overactivity of the thyroid gland have been shown to help.

According to the National Institutes of Health, doctors often prescribe beta-blockers such as propranolol, which are used to treat symptoms of rapid heart rate, sweating, and anxiety until the hyperthyroidism is controlled. Hyperthyroidism is treated with one or more of the following: Antithyroid medications, radioactive iodine and surgery.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of Graves’ disease it’s important to contact your doctor.

Click here for more information about this condition from the NIH.