How Are White Matter Lesions Treated?

The treatment of white matter lesions varies widely, depending on the underlying cause. In some cases, the lesions occur for no known reason, especially in the elderly. Other times they may be indicative of an underlying neurological disorder, often resulting in further treatment with medication targeted to the diagnosed condition. Potential causes of white matter lesions include stroke, multiple sclerosis, and various forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s.
White matter lesions are areas of dead cells found within the brain, primarily in connective tissue. When they occur along with other symptoms, they are often indicative of a neurological disorder and impaired neurological function. They are also common in the elderly and are considered normal with aging when they occur in very small areas. Even in those without a known disorder, however, lesions may be related to impaired cognitive function, memory problems, and impaired physical functions related to posture and coordination.
Multiple sclerosis is a specific health condition which is linked to white matter lesions. Most often additional symptoms are noticed first, leading to a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan where the lesions are detected. They often appear white or very light gray on the screen, although the name actually stems from the color brain tissue turns when soaked in formaldehyde. Treatment for this condition usually include medication to slow the progression of the disease.
Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other degenerative disorders are also linked to lesions in the brain. These conditions affect the ability of the body to function. Parkinson’s often leads to tremor, paralysis, and eventual death as the body “forgets” how to walk, think, eat, and breathe on its own. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia and eventually leads to patients losing all cognitive function. Both conditions are typically treated with medication or a combination of medications which are designed to slow the progression of deterioration.
Conditions caused by white matter lesions are generally incurable. The main form of treatment is to combat symptoms and slow the condition’s progress using prescription medications. Sometimes patients may be on several medications at once. In some cases, as in many multiple sclerosis patients, the progression of the condition will halt on its own. It is not known why this occurs, and patients may enter and exit remission several times throughout their lives.

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