What Is Graves’ Disease? A Primer on Missy Elliott’s Condition

Who Is At Risk? Primarily women, people under 40, smokers, those under a great deal of stress and people with other immune disorders.

Treatment: Anti-thyroid medication, radioactive iodine by mouth and even surgery are used to deal with Graves’.

What Sufferers Can Do: Exercise, eat well, avoid stress.

In the Billboard cover story, Elliott’s protege and close friend, rapper-dancer Sharaya J, saw first-hand the effects of the disease on the hip-hop star when she first began working with her around the time of her diagnosis. “It started to change her way of life,” she says. “There were physical changes, extreme headaches, extreme weight loss. What that does to a person, being a public figure and knowing people are looking, judging? That’s a tough thing.”

Missy Elliott: The Billboard Cover Shoot

Now, with the help of medication, Elliott has gotten her condition under control. To read more about Elliott’s health struggles and her return to the spotlight, read the full Billboard cover story here.

Missy Elliott has Graves’ disease–what is it?

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.


Then the opposite problem occurs – hypothyroidism, in which the body can’t produce enough, if any, thyroid hormone. Patients must then take medications so they get enough thyroid hormone; otherwise, the outlook is weight gain, depression and sluggishness.

Women are more likely to get the disease than men, and it usually develops after age 20.

According to reports, Elliott had radiation treatments. She’s quoted as saying:

“My thyroid is functioning, so I haven’t had to take medication in about nine months. you live with it for the rest of your life.”


If the disease is untreated, complications get worse over time. But, if diagnosed properly, the disease is no cause for panic. WebMD offers an overview:

“Although the symptoms can cause discomfort, Graves’ disease generally has no long-term adverse health consequences if the patient receives prompt and proper medical care.”

RELATED: More news from HealthKey

Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott embarked on her music career with an all-female R&B group in the early 1990s and later teamed up with her childhood friend and producer Timbaland. The two worked on projects for hit singers like Aaliyah, 702, Total, and SWV. Following several guest collaborative work, in 1997, she launched her solo career with the release of her debut album Supa Dupa Fly, which spawned a number of hit singles including “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” and “Sock It 2 Me”.

It seems as though she after she embarked on her solo career, there was no turning back. That is, until now (well, kind of). People have been talking about how young Missy looks now after she dropped a 2018 photo of herself on her instagram.

(Photo credit: Pinterest)

It seems as though she’s living one of her famous lyrics: “flip it and reversed it”–her aging that is. And she’s been able to look younger in spite of years battling a serious health condition: Graves’ disease.

“I couldn’t write because my nervous system was so bad – I couldn’t even use a pen,” the Grammy-winning artist told People magazine about her thyroid condition.

(Old Missy / Photo credit: Twitter)

(New Missy / Photo credit: Instagram)

Elliott was diagnosed with the condition in 2008 after involuntary jerking in her leg – effects of the disease – caused her to nearly crash her car.

But it wasn’t her first medical scare. Back in 2002, Elliott lost 71 pounds after doctors warned she could suffer a stroke if she didn’t lose weight. Missy has since made exercise and a healthy diet that limits fried foods, bread and sugar a part of her daily lifestyle.

After making the Graves’ Disease diagnosis public in 2011, many were unfamiliar with this debilitating disease. Here are some of the facts:

What Is Graves’ Disease?

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland. According to the Mayo Clinic, Graves’ disease happens when too much thyroid hormone is produced, also known as hyperthyroidism.

What Are The Symptoms?

The symptoms include: double vision, insomnia, fatigue, muscle weakness, rapid heart rate and…

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The reason for the six-year wait for a new Missy Elliott album became clear yesterday, when the groundbreaking rapper and producer revealed she is suffering from Graves’ disease, which affects the autoimmune system and thyroid gland. Elliott told People magazine the illness had made even simple, everyday tasks difficult. “I couldn’t write because my nervous system was so bad – I couldn’t even use a pen,” she said.

Elliott, 39, was diagnosed with the condition three years ago. She realised she had a problem while driving, when she lost control of her muscles. “I was trying to put my foot on the brake, but my leg was jumping,” she said. “I couldn’t keep the brake down and almost crashed.”

Elliott went on to suffer other symptoms, including hair loss and mood swings. But her condition improved after she underwent radiation therapy, and spent more time at the gym. “I’m 30 pounds lighter because I’ve been exercising,” she said. “My thyroid is functioning, so I haven’t had to take medication in about nine months. you live with it for the rest of your life.”

And new music is coming. This winter, she reunited with Timbaland, the producer with whom she made tracks such as Work It, Get Ur Freak On and The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly). In January, she guested on a Timbaland song called Take Ur Clothes Off, and she claims her long-promised seventh album – now dubbed Block Party – is truly on its way.

Elliott will discuss that upcoming record, and her struggle with Graves’ disease, on a 29 June episode of VH1’s Behind the Music.

Missy Elliott Living with Graves’ Disease

Missy Elliot has brought us great workout tunes like “Work It,” “The Rain,” and ” Get Ur Freak On.” But for the last three years, Elliott has been pretty quiet on the music front. Turns out, she’s been battling Graves’ disease, the most common form of hyperthyroidism. Elliott recently told People magazine that she was diagnosed back in 2008 when the disease began affecting her motor skills, and began causing her to suffer from common Graves’ disease symptoms such as dizzy spells, lumps in her throat, mood swings, hair loss, a fast heart rate and bulging eyes.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Graves’ disease is caused when your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland. The disease is more common in women than men, and usually begins after age 20.

While Graves’ disease is rarely life threatening, it is certainly life altering. Elliott told people that although she’ll have the disease and certain Grave’s disease symptoms for a lifetime, she’s feeling better after undergoing radiation and taking medication. Elliott has also dropped 30 pounds from exercising and a better diet.

We hope Elliott’s new, healthier lifestyle will allow her to get back to making new workout music soon!

  • By Jennipher Walters


UPDATE: In a press release, Missy Elliott says, “There have been some inaccuracies reported in regards to my diagnosis with Grave’s Disease, so I wanted to clear things up. I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease about three years ago but it really hasn’t slowed me down at all. I rocked my performance on VH1 Hip Hop Honors’ tribute to Timbaland last year. I’ve written and produced a bunch of Grammy-nominated, #1 hits for artists like Keyshia Cole, Monica and Jasmine Sullivan. I toured the UK, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. And on top of all that, I’m working on my new album. I feel great. Under my doctor’s supervision, I’ve been off medication for about a year and I’m completely managing the condition through diet and exercise.” Nice!

Pop-rap weirdo queen Missy Elliott hasn’t released a new album in nearly six years, and now we may know part of the reason why. According to Billboard, Elliott told People magazine that she has been suffering from the autoimmune disorder Graves’ disease since 2008.Graves’ disease, which affects the thyroid, causes symptoms like mood swings and weight loss. According to Billboard, Elliott has told People some of the ways that those symptoms have been affecting her: “I was trying to put my foot on the brake, but my leg was jumping. I couldn’t keep the brake down and almost crashed. I couldn’t write because my nervous system was so bad– I couldn’t even use a pen.”

Elliott is doing better now, thanks to radiation and exercise: “I’m 30 pounds lighter because I’ve been exercising. My thyroid is functioning, so I haven’t had to take medication in about nine months. you live with it for the rest of your life.”

Below, check out Missy’s classic video for “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”.

Missy elliott graves disease

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