What Is Graves Disease, the Ailment That Forced Wendy Williams' Leave of Absence?

Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Wilhelmina Models
Wendy Williams attends the 50th anniversary celebration of Wilhelmina with co-host Patti Hansen on Nov. 14, 2017 in New York City.

Wendy Williams made it clear that her doctors were concerned enough about her Graves disease battle that they insisted she take three weeks off from her daytime talk show and rest. The 53-year-old Wendy Williams Show host explained in a video that her doctor had "prescribed" three weeks of vacation.

The thyroid condition that results from the overstimulation of the thyroid gland -- a butterfly-shaped organ at the base of your neck that releases hormones that control metabolism and regulate things like breathing, heart rate and body temperature -- accompanied by symptoms such as weight loss, heart palpitations, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, bulging eyes, hand tremors and increased heat sensitivity, according to the Mayo Clinic's website.

In a video explaining her hiatus on Thursday (Feb. 22), Williams said her thyroid has lately been "all cattywampus," giving her audience credit for catching an "eye thing" that could be an early warning sign of an issue. The talk show host also described how Graves "squeezes" the muscles behind the eyeballs, as a possible explanation for her wide-eyed look, speaking haltingly at times about the Graves indicators that she does seem to have (irritability, insomnia, rapid heart beat, intolerance for heat), as well as the many she does not (weight loss, moist hands, nervousness, anxiety -- "please, I'm over 30 years in this game").

While the exact cause is not known, Graves is thought to be tied to a number of factors, including genes, gender and possibly infections, with women -- typically before the age of 40 -- affected around 8-10 times more often than men. Treatments include the injection of a radioactive iodine, medications, beta blockers, and in some cases, surgery. Untreated, Graves can lead to the life-threatening condition known as Thyrotoxicosis, heart problems, weak bones and, in some cases, death. Risk factors for the non-contagious disease also include a family history, other autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis and emotional/physical stress.

In October 2017, Williams passed out on live TV during her Halloween episode after appearing to get dizzy and faint on camera while slurring her words, telling her fans after a commercial break that she got "overheated" and passed out due to what her spokesperson said was dehydration; Williams later said the incident was a result of "heavy costume, makeup and lights."