Six days before the premiere, the show announced that Williams was still receiving care for issues related to her Graves’ disease and unable to return to live TV just yet, and that guest hosts would be filling in. “Wendy continues to be under medical supervision and meets with her medical team on a daily basis,” the show’s production company said on Instagram. “She is making progress but is experiencing serious complications as a direct result of Graves’ Disease and her thyroid condition.”
Williams was diagnosed with Graves’ disease—the most common cause of hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland) in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)—over 20 years ago. This overproduction of thyroid hormones can cause symptoms like a rapid or irregular heartbeat, trouble sleeping, nervousness or irritability, tiredness, muscle weakness, weight loss, shaky hands, frequent bowel movements, or diarrhea.
While Williams’s condition had been well-controlled, in 2018 she experienced a flare-up in symptoms (such as mood swings) that forced her to take a hiatus from her show, as SELF reported. “I had a storm going in my body is the best way I can explain it,” Williams told People in March 2018. Williams said that her symptoms arose after she skipped an appointment with her endocrinologist and that she initially attributed them to menopause. “I was just feeling like, ‘Alright, well I’m 53 and this is I guess how it’s supposed to be,'” she said.
Treatment options for Graves’ disease—which is typically diagnosed with a physical exam and blood tests or imaging tests—include medication and surgery. The most common treatment for Graves’ disease in the U.S., according to the NIDDK, is radioiodine therapy (taking capsules of radioactive iodine, which destroys thyroid gland cells that make thyroid hormone). Among other common treatment options are drugs that lessen your thyroid’s hormone production and surgery to remove some or all of the thyroid gland. All of these treatments can greatly reduce symptoms, but also cause other side effects that need managing (such as the opposite problem, hypothyroidism).
When Graves’ disease is untreated or poorly managed, it increases a person’s risk of complications affecting a variety of body systems, according to the Cleveland Clinic—such as Graves’ ophthalmopathy (which causes eye problems like bulging, pain, and double vision), skin problems, and heart issues (due to an uncontrolled irregular heartbeat). As with any chronic illness, managing Graves’ disease can be an ongoing task that requires not only adequate medical treatment but also a good relationship with your doctor and taking care of yourself. “I love doing the show, but I love me more,” as Williams put it to People in 2018. “So I’m going to take care of me, so I can be there for them.”
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