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What is the cause of white matter brain disease?

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While the causes of white matter brain diseases are not known, there is evidence to suggest a connection between these diseases and the disease processes associated with high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and inflammation, according to UC Davis. To illustrate this connection, patients who have white matter hyperintensities, a type of white matter disease in which the white matter appears extremely bright on brain magnetic resonance images, are at a higher risk for stroke.

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The brain's white matter is composed of myelinated axons that appear white due to the fatty constituents of myelin. These axons are responsible for transmitting information across brain regions, analogous to the connective cables in a computer network, and when this tissue is impaired, there are many neurological consequences. White matter complications are implicated in conditions such as Alzheimer's disorder and dementia, states UC Davis. Researchers believe that many of the neurological impairments associated with aging are actually the result of vascular disease that has not been properly treated, thus reinforcing the link between bodily disease processes and white matter disorders. Researchers are investigating the link between the inflammatory immune response and white matter brain disorders such as multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy, two conditions associated with white matter inflammation.

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