The Truth About Missy Elliott's Experience With Graves' Disease

In 2008, hip hop superstar Missy Elliott was experiencing tremors so severely that she nearly wrecked her car, according to CBS News. "I couldn't keep the brake down and almost crashed," she told People Magazine (via CBS News). She said that she couldn't "even use a pen" as a result of the tremors. She was later diagnosed with Graves' disease, a serious condition that affects the thyroid.

People with Graves' disease suffer from hyperthyroidism, also known as excess production of thyroid hormones (via the Mayo Clinic). The thyroid, a small gland located in the neck, creates hormones that are regulated by the pituitary gland. In Graves' disease, named after Irish physician Sir Robert Graves, an antibody is created that targets the thyroid, which then overrides the regulating hormones from the pituitary gland.

This immune system malfunction leads to too much thyroid hormone in the body (via the Mayo Clinic). There are many symptoms of Graves' disease, including anxiety, irritability, tremor of the hands or fingers, heat sensitivity, weight loss, menstrual cycle changes, frequent bowel movement, bulging eyes, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, sleep disturbance, and thick, red skin on the shins or tops of the feet.

Missy Elliott's experience with the disease

It's not known what causes Graves' disease. It's typically treated with radiation treatment, anti-thyroid medications, beta-blockers, or surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid (via the Mayo Clinic). When Missy Elliott was diagnosed, she received radiation treatment, which relieved many of her symptoms (via CBS News). Other symptoms she experienced included severe mood swings, dizziness, lumps in her throat, bulging eyes, and hair loss, according to USA Today. In addition to radiation treatment, she also exercised regularly, which helped manage the condition. "Under my doctor's supervision, I've been off medication for about a year and I'm completely managing the condition thru diet and exercise," she told USA Today in 2011.

You can be more at risk for Graves' disease if you have a family history of it, you're female, under the age of 40, have other autoimmune disorders, smoke cigarettes, are pregnant, or are experiencing increased stress (via the Mayo Clinic). While there's no cure for the disease, treatments can help lower the levels of thyroid hormones that the body creates and therefore help to alleviate symptoms.