The primary sign for Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome (WTS) is low body temperature, which can sometimes be the sole indicator that thyroid hormones aren’t quite right. Often, standard thyroid tests don’t reflect Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome because there are different ways that the body can experience hypothyroidism that tests can’t measure. For example, there may be a problem with thyroid hormone transport, T4 to T3 conversion, or perhaps thyroid receptors that just aren’t responding to thyroid hormone appropriately. No matter what the cause, the end result is that the person experiences low body temperature and hypothyroid symptoms that can include needing a sweater to feel comfortable when other people don’t.
But what causes this extra-sensitivity to the environment?
A study about mice and tails may offer some explanation. The researchers observed mice who had thyroid hormone receptor mutations, meaning that they were genetically bred to be hypothyroid. The researchers tested how the blood vessels in their tails responded to external temperatures. What they discovered is that the tail vessels of these mice didn’t react normally in response to external temperatures. In cold air, blood vessels should constrict in order to conserve heat loss from the body. But in these hypothyroid mice, the vessels did not constrict and so they lost more heat than they should. Applied to humans, this lack of vessel constriction would cause the person to lose heat and be more sensitive to environmental temperatures so they would feel more cold than others in the same environment. The researchers also discovered that because vessels didn’t constrict properly in these mice, it triggered heat-generating brown fat tissue to metabolize faster to create heat (also called “thermogenesis”). Their bodies found an alternate, but less effective way to create heat.
Nevertheless, many humans with low temperatures tend to gain weight more easily.
This is one of the first studies to connect thyroid status with blood vessel control and metabolism. It provides us with another piece of the puzzle to help us better understand why people with WTS and hypothyroidism feel colder than others. Understanding the issue with vessel control may later help us understand other facets of the complex endocrine system.
If you tend to be the coldest person in the room and suspect you may have Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome, you can take your temperatures using these directions.
If you find it is consistently below 98.6, you may have WTS. There are doctors who are familiar with treating WTS located on this search tool. As you would with any new doctor, be sure to call and ask questions about their experience and expertise.
WTS is not difficult to treat once you determine it’s the cause of your symptoms. Many people are able to restore normal thyroid activity and maintain normal body temperatures, and can eventually discontinue treatment!
Inappropriate heat dissipation ignites brown fat thermogenesis in mice with a mutant thyroid hormone receptor alpha-1. PNAS, 2013; 110(40):16241-16246