Wilson's temperature syndrome

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Wilson's temperature syndrome
Pseudomedical diagnosis

Wilson's (temperature) syndrome, also called Wilson's thyroid syndrome or WTS, is an alternative medicine concept which attributes various common and non-specific symptoms to low body temperature and impaired conversion of thyroxine (T4) to triiodothyronine (T3), despite normal thyroid function tests.[1] E. Denis Wilson, a physician who named the syndrome after himself, advocates treating these symptoms with sustained-release triiodothyronine.

Wilson's syndrome is not an actual medical condition, and there is no scientific evidence supporting Wilson's claims. The American Thyroid Association (ATA) describes Wilson's syndrome as at odds with established knowledge of thyroid function. The ATA described the diagnostic criteria for Wilson's syndrome as imprecise and non-specific, and raised concern that the proposed treatments were potentially harmful.[2] Florida State Medical Board members described Wilson's syndrome as a "phony syndrome" and a scam during disciplinary action against Wilson.[3]

Origins and claims[edit]

The term "Wilson’s syndrome" was coined in 1990 by E. Denis Wilson, a physician practicing in Longwood, Florida. Wilson said that the syndrome's manifestations included fatigue, headaches, PMS, hair loss, irritability, fluid retention, depression, decreased memory, low sex drive, unhealthy nails, easy weight gain, and about 60 other symptoms. Wilson wrote that the syndrome can manifest itself as "virtually every symptom known to man." He also says that it is "the most common of all chronic ailments and probably takes a greater toll on society than any other medical condition."[4]

Wilson says that low thyroid symptoms and low temperatures in the presence of normal thyroid function tests are not due to hypothyroidism, and might be reversed with a few months of treatment. To distinguish this condition from hypothyroidism, he named it Wilson's (temperature) syndrome. He states that it is "especially brought on by stress" and can persist after the stress has passed. He says that the main diagnostic sign is a body temperature that averages below 98.6 °F (37.0 °C) (oral), and that the diagnosis is confirmed if the patient responds to treatment with a "special thyroid hormone treatment". He says that certain herbs can also help support normal body temperatures.

Patient death and medical license suspension[edit]

In 1988 a 50-year-old woman died of an arrhythmia and heart attack while taking excessive amounts of thyroid hormone prescribed by Wilson; around that time she confessed to not taking the medicine as regularly as prescribed.[5]

Four years later, in 1992, the Florida Board of Medicine took disciplinary action against Wilson,[6] accusing him of "fleecing" patients with a "phony diagnosis".[7] The Board of Medicine and Wilson settled the disciplinary action, agreeing to a 6-month suspension of Wilson's medical license, after which Wilson would need to attend 100 hours of continuing medical education, submit to psychological testing, and pay a $10,000 fine before resuming practice. Wilson also agreed not to prescribe thyroid medication to anyone unless the Board of Medicine determined that the medical community had accepted "Wilson's Temperature Syndrome" and Wilson’s methods and modalities of treatment.[5][8]


During disciplinary action against Wilson, members of the Florida Board of Medicine stated that there was no evidence [Wilson's] theory is valid. They described Wilson's treatments as dangerous and a scam, stating that Wilson was fleecing insurance companies and patients with treatments for "a phony syndrome".[3][7]

The American Thyroid Association (ATA), a professional association dedicated to promoting thyroid health, disavows Wilson's Temperature Syndrome. The ATA stated in 2005 that a "thorough review of the biomedical literature has found no scientific evidence supporting the existence of 'Wilson's Temperature Syndrome'." The statement added that the mean temperature of normal persons in the AM on waking is 97.5 °F, not 98.5 °F, and that many of the symptoms described by Wilson are nonspecific and typical of depression, anxiety, and psychological and social stress. It also notes that a similar set of symptoms occurs in the alternative diagnoses of neurasthenia, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivity, chronic Epstein-Barr virus syndrome, and chronic candidiasis. Finally, the Association notes that chronic supplementation with triiodothyronine (T3) is particularly difficult and problematic, since various tissues set their own cellular levels of this hormone by making it individually from thyroxine, and supplementation of T3 may overwhelm this normal regulatory mechanism in some of these tissues.[2]

The Mayo Clinic website similarly warns that Wilson's syndrome is not an accepted medical diagnosis, and advises patients against the unproven therapies associated with the "syndrome".[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Nippoldt, Todd (November 21, 2009). "Is Wilson's syndrome a legitimate ailment?". Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Public Health Statement: "Wilson's Syndrome"". American Thyroid Association.
  3. ^ a b "Board:Physician is fleecing patients". Lakeland Ledger. February 9, 1992. Retrieved 2010-05-27.
  4. ^ Wilson, E. Denis (1992). Wilson's Temperature Syndrome - A Reversible Low Temperature Problem. Cornerstone Publishing. ISBN 0-9708510-1-4.
  5. ^ a b State of Florida, Department of Health. February 12, 1992. Final Order Number: DPR9200039ME
  6. ^ "License Verification: E. Denis Wilson". Florida Department of Health. Retrieved April 2, 2009.
  7. ^ a b Gentry, Carol (February 8, 1992). "Doctor's syndrome a sham, board says". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
  8. ^ Berdanier, Carol, ed. (2002). Handbook of Nutrition and Food. CRC Press. p. 1498. ISBN 978-0-8493-2705-6. Retrieved April 2, 2009.

Further reading[edit]