11 Celebrities With Thyroid Disease

Stars share their challenges and triumphs

Many celebrities in the arts and politics have thyroid conditions. Their experiences can be inspiring and useful for anyone coping with a thyroid problem.

Here, we share their stories to shed light on treatment options and challenges.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Clinton

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Former U.S. Secretary of State, Senator, 2016 presidential candidate, and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton released her medical records in July 2015. They showed she was being treated for hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland can't make enough thyroid hormone.

Clinton's report revealed that her doctor hadn't prescribed levothyroxine, the standard treatment for hypothyroidism. Instead, she used a natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) called Armour Thyroid.

Armour Thyroid is a natural product made with dried T4 and T3 hormones from cows or pigs. NDT is no longer considered the best option. 

In 2014 the American Thyroid Association recommended against the use of NDT. Still, many doctors continue to prescribe Armour Thyroid and other NDT products with some success.

Oprah Winfrey

'Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show And American Culture' Opening Reception
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America's media mogul Oprah Winfrey announced in 2007 that she had a bout of hyperthyroidism followed by hypothyroidism. Winfrey discussed the problem in her magazine O and on her television program.

She was treated with medication and later said her thyroid levels had stabilized. Winfrey stopped taking thyroid medications but continued to have her thyroid function checked.

Health experts were quick to state publicly that hypothyroidism usually requires lifelong treatment.

Senator Bernie Sanders

Portrait of Bernie Sanders Talking
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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was a contender for the 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential nominations. He released health information in January 2016. According to his physician, Sanders was being treated for hypothyroidism.

Senator Sanders' medical report showed he was being treated with levothyroxine. It's a synthetic thyroid hormone often prescribed for hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Gina Rodriguez

Gina Rodriguez
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Gina Rodriguez, star of TV's "Jane the Virgin," was diagnosed with hypothyroidism at age 19. She later discovered her condition was caused by Hashimoto's thyroiditis. It's an autoimmune disease and the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States.

With this condition, the immune system makes antibodies that attack the thyroid gland. The gland may enlarge or shrink, causing a drop in thyroid hormones. Hashimoto's is more common in women than men.  

Among the other stars with the condition:

  • Kim Cattrall of TV's "Sex and the City" was diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis in 1998.
  • Kim Alexis, a former supermodel, also has Hashimoto's thyroiditis and hypothyroidism. She had symptoms for years before she was finally diagnosed. A healthy diet and exercise helped Alexis shed the weight she gained after her diagnosis.
  • Gena Lee Nolin, star of the TV series "Baywatch," had fatigue and weight gain in each of her pregnancies. She was told it was post-partum depression. Nolin was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism in 2008. She announced her commitment to raising awareness in 2011.

Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott performs onstage
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In her 2011 "VH1 Inside the Music" profile and a People magazine interview, hip-hop star Missy Elliott talked about being diagnosed with Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism in 2008.

Graves' disease is a condition where the immune system makes antibodies that attack the thyroid gland. They cause the body to make too much thyroid hormone.

Symptoms of Graves' disease include:

  • Weight loss
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle weakness
  • Goiter

Elliott received radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment for her condition. She said, "The disease really hasn't slowed me down at all...I feel great."

These are some other celebrities with Graves' disease:

  • Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush were diagnosed with Graves' disease while he was in office.
  • Olympic medalist Gail Devers almost had to abandon her athletic career due to Graves' disease. She had gained weight and lost muscle. Devers testified to a Congressional committee about being misdiagnosed and the cost of medical mistakes. She received RAI to disable her thyroid gland. Then she was placed on thyroid HRT. The athlete went on to win gold medals in the 100-meter dash at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games.
  • Singer Toni Childs is in remission from Graves' disease. She dropped out of the music scene for nearly 10 years to cope with her condition.

Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart Performs In Milan

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Rocker Rod Stewart had surgery on his thyroid gland to remove a tumor. The procedure placed his singing voice at risk. The growth was found during a routine computed tomography (CT) scan. Doctors thought it was a benign nodule at first. A biopsy later revealed it to be a slow-growing papillary thyroid carcinoma, the most common form of thyroid cancer.

In his autobiography, "Rod: The Autobiography," the rock star described the distress he felt the first six months after his surgery as he waited for his voice to return.

Stewart had vocal therapy as part of his rehabilitation. He was able to sing again after nine months, though an octave lower. His singing career continues today.

Sofia Vergara

Sofia Vergara

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Actress Sofia Vergara successfully battled thyroid cancer in 2002. She went on to star in the hit TV comedy series "Modern Family." Vergara told Parade magazine: "I've been through it all, so I don't take life's little dramas too seriously. I say, don't sweat the small stuff, because there's bigger stuff that can really make you sweat."

Vergara had her thyroid removed as part of her treatment. She relies on thyroid hormones to maintain normal function. In 2013, the star became the spokesperson for Synthroid (levothyroxine).

Roger Ebert

Film critic Roger Ebert

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The late film critic Roger Ebert fought thyroid cancer for much of his life. In 2002, he was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. In 1988, he had a salivary gland tumor removed.

Ebert had a relapse of salivary cancer a few years later. He had surgery, radiation, and a tracheotomy. He permanently lost his voice following several surgeries and the return of cancer. Ebert died of related complications in 2013.

Angie Everhart

4th Hollywood Beauty Awards Angie Everhart

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Model and actress Angie Everhart was diagnosed with early stage 1 thyroid cancer in 2013. After surgery, she is cancer-free. Everhart maintains her hormone levels with Armour Thyroid.

Before her diagnosis, Everhart was having shoulder pain and sleep problems. Her doctor ordered a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. It showed a cancerous mass in her thyroid.

Among the other celebrities who have survived thyroid cancer:

  • Actress Catherine Bell ("JAG") survived cancer and is a spokesperson for the Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association.
  • Comedian and actor Joe Piscopo is a long-term thyroid cancer survivor. He was diagnosed during the 1990s.
  • Billionaire Washington NFL team owner Dan Snyder has also successfully fought thyroid cancer.

Katee Sackhoff

ctress Katee Sackhoff
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Actress Katee Sackhoff was treated for thyroid cancer in 2009. Sackhoff, known for her roles on TV's "Battlestar Galactica" and "24," told the New York Post: "Luckily, for me, I had one of the most curable forms of it. Once the surgery was done to remove my thyroid, I took nine months off."

In January 2011, a one-year check-up confirmed she had no signs of cancer. However, not all of Sackhoff's scars healed right away. In an interview, she stated: "It was the scariest thing I've ever been through... I'm still in therapy trying to get over it."

Brooke Burke-Charvet

Television host and model Brooke Burke

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Brooke Burke-Charvet, model and former co-host of TV's "Dancing with the Stars," announced in November 2012 that she had been diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. The 41-year-old mother of four said a thyroid nodule had been found but that she put off a follow-up visit.

Various tests and a fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy confirmed she had thyroid cancer. Burke-Charvet had surgery to remove the thyroid gland and stated that she was relieved that surgery did not affect her voice.

Summary

These public figures shared their thyroid stories to raise awareness of the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. Their journeys may have been different, but the resilience they showed unites them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long can you live with hyperthyroidism?

    Left untreated, hyperthyroidism can lead to serious health problems, including blood clots, stroke, and heart failure. However, if hyperthyroidism is managed properly—usually with medication—these risks are greatly reduced. People with treated hyperthyroidism typically live a normal lifespan. 

  • Is Graves’ disease a lifelong condition?

    Yes, Graves’ disease is a lifelong condition. However, it is manageable. Treatments such as beta-blockers, antithyroid medications, radiation therapy, or surgery can put the disease into remission.

  • Can you be skinny with hypothyroidism?

    Yes, people who are thin or fit can have hypothyroidism, but it is less common. Hypothyroidism is a risk factor for obesity. Having an underactive thyroid can make it harder to lose weight, but people with hypothyroidism can lose weight with a healthy diet, exercise, and thyroid replacement medication.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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