Hypothyroidism is rampant in our culture.
In young children, it is characterized by difficulty concentrating in school, frequent ear infections, pneumonia, and bronchitis. Later in life, signs of low thyroid function include migraines, headaches, post-nasal drip, respiratory infections, diarrhea, constipation, infertility, sinus infections, sleep disturbances, and decreased libido. Sleep disturbances can be either getting too much or too little quality sleep, but it is more often getting too much sleep. Some people will get 12 hours without feeling refreshed upon waking. A common problem with hypothyroidism is migraine headaches, which is referred to in alternative medicine as Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome, or WTS.
Comorbid condition means that there are syndromes that happen together, but are independent of each other. They affect each other, but they are not usually identified as being caused by the other. The International Headache Society has identified a link between hypothyroidism and headaches and migraine syndrome. Low thyroid function with comorbid migraines is called Wilson’s Syndrome.
How the Thyroid Plays a Part in Migraines
For the most part, and this is an overgeneralization, migraines are treated by normalizing low body temperatures. This is how the thyroid is connected to migraines. If you will remember, the thyroid gland acts as the body’s furnace, regulating metabolism and cellular energy. In hypothyroidism, the hormones T3 and T4 are not released in significant amounts. Therefore, the thyroid-stimulating hormone is secreted in higher amounts to signal the thyroid gland to release more of its hormones. When this does not occur and the body temperature drops, headaches or migraines set in.
There is debate as to how this connection actually happens, but the thought is that lower body temperatures relax and dilate the blood vessels, which then results in more fluid to the tissues. The swelling and excess fluid to the brain, which is contained in the small space of the cranium, could then be the reason for the characteristic throbbing of migraine headaches.
Many doctors don’t like treating migraine headaches, because the patient sometimes needs narcotic medication, which can prove addictive and dangerous to both patient and physician. However, in cases like Wilson’s syndrome, where the migraines are associated with hypothyroidism, doctors find the condition much easier to treat. The trouble is that in conventional medicine, this is not an accepted diagnosis for the comorbid conditions. This refers to conditions that happen together, but are independent of each other.
What is Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome?
This is a debilitating condition that is actually considered an alternative medicine concept, which means that it is not necessarily accepted by everyone in the conventional medicine community. That does not, however, mean it is not a relevant disease. So what exactly is this condition? It’s the diagnosis given to those with symptoms of hypothyroidism, with migraines being of primary concern. These patients do not generally present with typical symptoms and tests. People with Wilson’s syndrome have heard things in the doctor’s office like, “Your tests are normal, so there’s nothing wrong with you,” or “this is just thyroid disease and you’ll have to deal with it.” Unfortunately, since Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome is not an accepted diagnosis, it is not as well studied as hypothyroidism and migraine syndrome separately. It is, however, characterized by symptoms of frequent low body temperatures, fatigue, irritability, migraine headaches, insomnia, hair loss, and weight gain. These are all symptoms of low thyroid function, which is why so many doctors give the low thyroid diagnosis on its own.
If you have chronic migraines and present with the above-noted symptoms, you may be suffering from Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome. It would be prudent to talk to your doctor about treating low thyroid, even if your tests come back negative, or normal. Sometimes, medicine means taking a leap of faith into the unknown and charting waters that are not traditional in nature. It’s more important to personalize treatment than it is to follow the rule book of conventional medicine, and Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome is definitely uncharted waters in most doctors’ offices.