1. Health
Grave Concerns: President Bush's Health Timebomb?
Is He, Like His Parents, Facing Thyroid Disease?

by Mary J. Shomon

Jan. 16, 2002-- In the wake of President Bush's health concerns, after he briefly passed out, apparently due to choking on a pretzel, a key question must be raised: is the President facing an undiagnosed case of thyroid disease?
Related Information
Graves' Disease: A Practical Guide
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Hyperthyroidism
Thyroid Disease 101


Join the Discussion
Is Bush Showing Thyroid Symptoms?
I'm just a bit concerned that all this War on Terrorism/Enron-gate stuff is precipitating a thyroid problem in the most powerful man on Earth, and having gone through the hyperthyroid nut period of life do not wish to see the man with his finger on the nuclear button even 1/2 of a click off due to lax medical care/observation."
JACK

Physicians claim that mild choking on the pretzel likely caused what's known as a vasovagal syncope -- a fainting spell due to a signal sent to the vagus nerve that slows the heart down. They have also speculated, however, that the episode could have been due to extensive coughing to get rid of the pretzel, or having his trachea blocked by food.

While the President's physicians claim that he has been thoroughly checked out physically, no mention was made of any thyroid tests as part of the evaluation after this incident. Both of Bush's parents were diagnosed with the autoimmune thyroid disease known as Graves' disease, while the senior Bush was President. (Even family dog Millie came down with another autoimmune disease at the time, lupus.) What's clear, however, is that the family thyroid connection puts the current President at strong risk of developing a thyroid condition himself.

According to Hossein Gharib, M.D., F.A.C.E, president-elect of AACE and Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Medical School, "Fifty percent of thyroid disease patients' offspring will inherit the thyroid disease gene."

Graves' disease is frequently seen to come on during periods of intense stress. The elder Bush faced his bout with the autoimmune condition amidst the Gulf War, and the younger Bush has certainly faced his share of stress since the September 11th terrorist attacks and subsequent war in Afghanistan.

It's clear that, if not already being done, the President's physicians should be looking carefully at his thyroid antibodies and conducting a complete thyroid bloodwork panel, because the pretzel episode could be consistent with some of the symptoms of Graves' disease, including:
  • Feeling of fullness in the throat
  • Enlargement of the thyroid, known as goiter
  • Choking on foods
  • Irregularities in blood pressure and heart rate
  • Fainting or dizziness
It's been noted by some media outlets that the President appears to have lost some weight, another common Graves' disease/hyperthyroidism symptom.

It's estimated that some 10 million Americans have undiagnosed thyroid conditions.


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