Morgan Stewart's Thyroid Condition Explained

Morgan Stewart is a well-known personality for fans of "E! News." She has hosted shows such as "Daily Pop," "Live from E!" and "Nightly Pop," as well as coverage of red carpet events and personality appearances on other shows like Gordon Ramsey's "Hell's Kitchen."

As a regular media personality, Stewart isn't shy about sharing her personal life with fans. Her Instagram touches on her daily life as a professional, a mother, and a wife to her husband Jordan McGraw. She also wasn't shy about sharing pregnancy pictures prior to the birth of a daughter, Row, in February.

Being upfront and honest with her fans is part of Stewart's charm. So it's no surprise that when the host faced a serious health issue that she opened up about that to fans as well. This month Stewart took to the Story feature on her Instagram to update fans on a health ordeal she had been going through. Like any new mother, Stewart knew that there would be an adjustment period after the birth of her daughter. But her experiences went far beyond the norm, and ended up being signs of a serious problem.

How it started

Stewart first noticed something was wrong about nine weeks before she updated fans on her situation, according to People. She noticed that she was dizzy, sluggish, and exhausted while her joints began to hurt. Pregnancy is rough on the body and recovering after delivering a baby can take up to six weeks or even longer, according to What to Expect. Stewart assumed that her symptoms were part of recovery. Or, as she put it, her "new normal" after having a baby.

Things changed after a few weeks, however. Stewart suffered an episode in which she felt tingly and "blurry" with the sense that she wasn't in control of her own body. A few weeks after that, a second, more intense episode overtook her while she was driving. She found that she could not lift her right arm no matter how hard she tried. Stewart managed to pull over safely and call her husband, who got her home. But Stewart said that she was incoherent with "panic and uncertainty."

It was at this point that Stewart sought medical help. None of this, she decided, was a normal part of recovering from pregnancy. Her doctor advised her to rest while they ran some blood tests. And that's exactly what Stewart did. She and her husband took a vacation to Napa Valley, during which her symptoms continued. When she returned, it was to the news that her blood tests turned up an issue with her thyroid.

Understanding the thyroid

The thyroid is one of those body parts that everyone knows the name of, but few actually understand. It's understandable, since most people don't need to think much about the butterfly-shaped organ nestled under their voice box (via NCBI). But this often-ignored gland is the key player in determining a person's metabolism as well as their rate of growth in childhood. This is because the thyroid produces three hormones, two of which are instrumental in governing the body's use of energy. And when either of those two hormones is out of balance, it spells bad news for the body. 

Those two chemicals are T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (tetraiodothyronine). According to the NCBI, they are both mainly built of iodine and bind to different carrier proteins so they can move throughout the body. Whenever the body needs more energy, these chemicals are supposed to release from their carrier proteins and make that energy boost happen. Whether it's a growth spurt, prolonged exposure to the cold, or a sudden threat that requires fast action, the thyroid's chemicals make sure the body accesses the energy it needs.

Thyroid tests

Stewart had no way of knowing that the symptoms she experienced are often tied to an issue called hyperthyroidism. It can only really be diagnosed through lab tests, most notable a panel of blood tests. The American Thyroid Association states that the panel is usually made up of three tests, though many doctors will only run the second two if the first test turns up an irregular result.

This first test looks at TSH levels. If those levels are too high, there is a good chance that a person is suffering from hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. Low TSH levels could mean that the thyroid is producing too many hormones, meaning the person is suffering from hyperthyroidism. And while this may seem backwards, it actually makes a lot of sense. TSH stands for "thyroid stimulating hormone." If the thyroid is producing too many hormones, the body will reduce the chemical responsible for stimulating it. On the other hand, TSH levels will go up in an attempt to encourage an underperforming thyroid.

When an irregular TSH test comes back, the doctor will then run tests to check the patient's T3 and T4 levels. T4 levels will often be tested first because they will indicate a thyroid issue regardless of whether the gland is overperforming or underperforming. T3 levels, on the other hand, will only change early on if someone is suffering hyperthyroidism. If a person is dealing with hypothyroidism, T3 levels usually won't change until the issue becomes severe.

Stewart's diagnosis

When Stewart's test results came back, she says, her doctor was floored. The host was told that she had hyperthyroidism and that her levels were so high that they were in "outer space". The specific term her doctor used was thyrotoxic. A 2006 review published in BMJ tells us that thyrotoxicosis usually presents along with Graves' disease, which is one of the options Stewart's doctor put forward when they discussed what might have caused the sudden onset of symptoms. The condition affects roughly 2 percent of women and 0.2 percent of men, making it even more understandable why Stewart felt she had to push through the symptoms. They just aren't common.

Thyrotoxicosis usually occurs alongside Graves' disease, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the thyroid. This ultimately leads to hyperthyroidism, according to the NIDDK. Stewart shared that her doctor has since ruled out Grave's disease as an option, leaving two others on the table. She either has a nodule on her thyroid or she has subacute thyroiditis.

Most thyroid nodules, according to the Mayo Clinic, are harmless. They are either solid or fluid-filled bumps that form on the thyroid and, usually, exist without causing symptoms. Most are found during checks for other issues. Subacute thyroiditis, on the other hand, usually occurs after a viral respiratory infection. It causes thyroid inflammation, setting off a conditional case of hyperthyroidism (via Penn Medicine).

Morgan Stewart's advice

Morgan Stewart ended her Instagram Story with a plea to her followers. She told them not to wait like she did and urged them to seek medical help as soon as possible when they feel like something is wrong. It's good advice that anyone with a possible thyroid condition should absolutely take. If left untreated, hyperthyroidism can lead to serious bone, heart, and muscle issues. The condition can also cause long-term damage to a woman's menstrual cycle and fertility, according to the NIDDK.

This is especially true for women who have recently given birth. Medline Plus, a site run by the National Institute of Health, states that women are at a higher risk for developing hyperthyroidism for six months after giving birth. The condition, which causes anxiety and nervousness, can be compounded by issues like postpartum depression. 

This serious mental health condition affects one out of every five women, according to the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance. And while many women have heard the term, few people understand the severity of the issue which can range from chronic "baby blues" to suicidal thoughts and deep depression. Stewart herself said that part of why she pushed through her symptoms was her certainty that it wasn't postpartum depression, which she would have sought help for, highlighting just how serious the condition is. As Stewart says, women are conditioned to push through their illnesses. But in these cases, it's important to seek help as soon as possible.