Beware Bogus ‘Wilson’s Syndrome’ Diagnosis

Don’t be misled by bogus answer to fatigue

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Fatigue is one of the most common complaints I hear from my patients, and it’s also one of the hardest to treat.

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There can be so many reasons that people experience fatigue, ranging from medical conditions like sleep apnea to psychological problems like depression or simple lifestyle factors like not getting enough sleep.

Sometimes there’s no answer to explain a person’s fatigue, and that can be frustrating for a patient to hear. All too often, he or she will go looking somewhere else for answers, especially to the Internet.

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“Wilson’s syndrome” is one of the theories that has spread online. It’s a collection of nonspecific symptoms (including fatigue) that Denis Wilson, MD, claims result from low thyroid hormone – despite blood tests showing that a person’s thyroid levels are normal.

“Wilson’s syndrome” is not an accepted diagnosis by the American Thyroid Association or by the large majority of physicians.

Here are a few reasons why:

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  • There’s no scientific support for ‘Wilson’s syndrome’. There’s no evidence in the medical literature to support the existence of such a condition. Blood tests can easily confirm or rule out any problems with thyroid function, so the physician and patient can move on to consider other possible diagnoses.
    Download our Thyroid Center treatment guide
  • The symptoms Dr. Wilson describes are nonspecific and common. So many common conditions can account for the symptoms he identifies as part of this syndrome, including fatigue, migraines, premenstrual syndrome and weight gain. Treating a nonexistent thyroid condition can result in overlooking the real cause of the patient’s symptoms.
  • Treating a nonexistent condition can cause dangerous side effects. Dr. Wilson recommends treatment of his syndrome with a specially prepared dosage of T3, a hormone used to treat actual hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels). This medication can give patients a boost much like caffeine does in the short term. But it also can cause insomnia, irregular heart rate, high blood pressure, bone loss and muscle loss – including heart muscle loss. The longer a patient uses it and the higher the dosage, the harder it is to reverse the negative effects of the medication.
    How to Spot Bogus Health Claims

Fatigue can result from many conditions, and it’s important to focus our attention and care on its legitimate medical and psychological causes. To patients, I say, be skeptical of any diagnosis of “Wilson’s Syndrome.” It’s simply not proven to exist and not supported by the medical community. Most importantly, trying to treat it can be a dangerous approach that undermines your health and wellness, rather than improves it.

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Marwan Hamaty, MD

Marwan Hamaty, MD, MBA, is a staff physician in the Endocrinology & Metabolism Institute. His specialties are diabetes and pre-diabetes.
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