White Matter Disease: Symptoms & Treatment

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White Matter Disease: More evidence is accumulating that damage to the cognitive areas is widespread due to white matter disease. White matter disease is responsible for one-fifth of all stroke cases worldwide, which is more than twice the risk of stroke in the future, and it is a contributing factor in up to 45% of dementia cases. Dementia is a term for declining mental abilities, such as memory difficulties, language problems, and psychological impairment, which reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.

But researchers at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre have discovered a possible cause of common dementia, a finding that opens avenues for treatment. The source? White matter disease (leukoaraiosis).


These researchers also found further troubling evidence that cognitive damage from the disease is more widespread than first thought. However, we will be taking you through a detailed article on White matter disease, its symptoms, effect, possible treatment, and all you need to know…

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But before we proceed into any further details, let’s first understand the meaning of White matter disease.

What is White matter disease?

White matter disease is a type of disease that affects the nerves that link various parts of the brain to each other and to the spinal cord.


These nerves are also referred to as white matter. This disease causes these areas to decline in their functionality. This disease is also referred to as leukoaraiosis.

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Also, have it at the back of your mind that a person with white matter disease will gradually have increasing difficulty with the ability to think. They will further have progressively worsening issues with balance as well.

White matter disease is also a progressive age-related disease. Linked to age, it generally affects the elderly. Progressive means that it gets worse over time.

The life expectancy after a diagnosis of this disease depends on the speed and progression of any other condition it may cause, such as stroke and dementia.

White matter disease is believed to be a factor in both stroke and dementia. However, more research should be done to confirm further.


What are the symptoms of white matter disease?

Until the disease becomes more advanced, most symptoms of the white matter disease don’t appear. The symptoms may, however, be mild at the start and increase in severity over time.

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The symptoms include:

  • Issues with balance
  • walking slow
  • more frequent falls
  • unable to do more than one thing at a time, like talking while walking
  • depression
  • unusual mood changes

What are the risk factors and causes?

At least one study shows that white matter disease can be caused by strokes so small that they are almost imperceptible for those who suffer from them.

These little imperceptible strokes are called silent strokes. It is believed that these silent strokes damage the white matter, and thus cause white matter disease.


There is also some evidence that white matter disease can be a cause of vascular dementia.

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The causes and risk factors of white matter disease may include:

  • smoking cigarettes
  • older age
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol.

From the article stated above, I can boldly say that the most common risk factor is an age since this is an age-related disease.

Are there any treatment options?

The disease has no cure. But there are several treatments that can help control and manage your symptoms. Its goal is to target and treat the cause of the damage and avoid it from getting worse. Physical therapy is the primary treatment.

Physical therapy can also help with any balance and walking difficulties you may develop. Your overall physical and mental health can be improved when you can walk and move better without much help.


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From current research, it is seen that managing your vascular health may also be an effective way to manage the symptoms of the disease.

Not smoking and taking necessary blood pressure medications as directed may assist in slowing the progression of the disease and your symptoms.

How is the disease diagnosed?

Advances in medical imaging have made it easy to detect white matter disease. An MRI test, which captures images from inside your mind, can show no harm.

Changes in the white matter will show a very bright white color (your doctor may prescribe this (“hyperintense” ) on the MRI scan. You may also need more tests to rule out other causes.


What are the potential complications?

The possible complications of the disease come from the symptoms and other medical conditions that can cause it. Some possible complications of the disease include:

Can the disease be prevented?

Age-related white matter disease is progressing, which means it can get worse. But you can take steps to prevent its spread. Scientists quite believe that you can repair the damage even if you discover it early.

Make sure you always keep your blood pressure and blood sugar in check. It can lead to white matter changes.

If you have any symptoms of white matter disease, it is important to discuss them with your doctor. There may be a treatment that can help delay or control symptoms.

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However, there is ongoing research into the disease. It looks promising that the disease may be caused by mini, silent strokes.

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If this is the case, then researchers will one day be able to prevent and treat the disease. Knowing the cause may also allow doctors to finally treat and possibly even prevent vascular dementia.

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