Missy Elliott has been out of the limelight for a few years now because she’s battling Graves' disease, undergoing treatment that has included radiation, according to media reports. The disease, which affects the thyroid gland, may not be familiar to most people, but it can cause a long litany of unpleasant symptoms.
Essentially, Graves' disease causes too much thyroid hormone to be produced, a condition called hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland’s hormones help regulate the body’s metabolism, affecting mood, weight and energy. But in people with Graves' disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, causing it to overproduce thyroid hormone.
Having too much thyroid hormone can cause rapid heart rate, anxiety, tremors, weight loss, double vision, insomnia, increased sweating, fatigue, muscle weakness, menstrual irregularities and, in men, enlarged breasts. And that’s just for starters. Other classic signs of Graves' disease include an enlarged thyroid gland, or goiter, and bulging eyes. Missy Elliott appears to have suffered a few of these, according to this USA Today article.
Beta blockers can quell the high heart rate and nervousness, but there isn’t a treatment to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid gland. So anti-thyroid medications are used to prevent the excess production of thyroid hormone. These medications are often taken alongside doses of radioactive iodine, which shrink the gland, or with surgery that removes the gland altogether. The Mayo Clinic outlines the options.