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Leukoaraiosis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention, Risk Factors

A good percentage of the human brain is composed of white matter. The white matter in the brain acts almost like tracts of communications all over the brain, connecting and coordinating different parts of the brain so that the transfer of information becomes hazardless. Leukoaraiosis is a disease or condition in which the white matter of the brain is damaged. The term “leukoaraiosis” is derived from the two Greek words, “leuko” meaning white and “araios”, meaning rarefied. The term depicts the abnormal state of white matter in certain other condition. As known to the experts, leukoaraiosis is not an independent disease, but it occurs along with different conditions like brain stroke, dementia, and cognitive function disorders, etc. The term was coined in 1987, since then, many new aspects of the disease have been discovered. Once Leukoaraiosis was considered as a disease of aging people only; but with the advent of investigation processes, researchers have found its close links with certain diseases which may also occur at the middle ages.

Causes of Leukoaraiosis

Leukoaraiosis is a small vessel disease of the brain. It is triggered by many causes. Some of which are as follows:

  • Hypertension is detected as the most obvious cause of leukoaraiosis. As per the experts, high BP increases the risk of Leukoaraiosis almost 14 times.
  • Reduced cerebral blood flow is another major factor of leukoaraiosis. Patients detected with leukoaraiosis normally have much lower blood flow in the brain than the normal persons. It is also found that the patients with Leukoaraiosis have a reduced capacity to respond to changes in the blood flow than the normal people.
  • The changing physical characters of platelets are also found to trigger leukoaraiosis. Patients with this disease possess larger and stickier platelet cells.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea increases hypertension, which in turn increases the risk of leukoaraiosis. So, people with obstructive sleep apnea have a higher risk of this disease.
  • Homocysteine is known to form due to the higher rates of protein metabolism leading to a dysfunction of the endothelium. This in turn is related to poor blood flow through the small vessels, thus leading to leukoaraiosis.

Symptoms of Leukoaraiosis

Symptoms of Leukoaraiosis

At the initial stages, Leukoaraiosis doesn’t have any remarkable symptoms. Patients may notice headache, dizziness, and tinnitus. In more advanced stages of Leukoaraiosis, patients may have muscle pain, weakness, sleep problems, fatigue, gait, and stance disorders along with the above-mentioned problems. In the advanced stages, some visible changes in cognitive functioning may be noticed. Leukoaraiosis patients may have problems in balancing, thinking, prioritizing, and memorizing as well.

Risk Factors of Leukoaraiosis

Smoking, alcoholism, unhealthy eating habit, insomnia, stress, depression, and sedentary lifestyle, etc. are the key risk factors of leukoaraiosis.

Diagnosis of Leukoaraiosis

Patients need to visit expert neurologists for proper diagnosis of Leukoaraiosis. Normally CT scan and MRI are performed to detect the presence and severity of the disease.

Treatment of Leukoaraiosis

After thorough diagnosis, and confirming the presence of leukoaraiosis, the neurologist decides on the treatment procedures. The main task of the expert here is to determine the root cause of the problem and find the most suitable remedy. As leukoaraiosis occurs due to a multiple reasons, treatment for leukoaraiosis and the cause of the disease like stroke, dementia, hypertension, etc. are also necessary.

A neurologist will provide medicines for improving metabolism in the related tissues, and the blood flow in the brain. Apart from this, the medicines help in managing the condition in the following ways:

  • Medicines that can inhibit phosphodiesterase (Phosphodiesterases {PDEs} are some enzymes that could break phosphodiester bond), like vinpocetine, nicergoline, etc are prescribed for treating Leukoaraiosis. The vasodilating feature of these medicines helps to increase the blood flow in the affected parts of the brain.
  • Medicines that have metabolism enhancing capacity, like oxiracetam, neutrophil, piracetam, etc. are also prescribed for treating Leukoaraiosis.

Early treatment is mandatory in leukoaraiosis to reverse the condition completely. Delayed treatment may create other complexities like vascular dementia, and other serious damages to the nervous system.

Prevention of Leukoaraiosis

No specific treatment is available for leukoaraiosis till now, as the researchers are still trying to find out the root cause of the disease. However, the risk factors depicted above provides some ways to lower the risk of the disease. Here are some preventive methods to reduce the severity of Leukoaraiosis:

  • Increased physical activities, sports, exercise, etc. can reduce the risk of Leukoaraiosis by almost 40%.
  • Therapy to reduce homocysteine can reduce the risk of leukoaraiosis cases due to this disease. Normally, certain doses of vitamin B are used as a therapeutic measure to reduce the risk of homocysteine.
  • Reducing hypertension, platelet dysfunction, and metabolic syndrome, etc. can also reduce the risk of leukoaraiosis.
  • Change in lifestyle, less fatty foods, quitting smoking, and alcohol are other important factors in reducing the risk of leukoaraiosis.

Leukoaraiosis and Brain Aging

Leukoaraiosis is closely related with many symptoms of brain ageing. As such, the presence of the disease is mostly found in the older people. Previously the presence of Leukoaraiosis was not known to the experts due to lack of modern brain imaging processes. As people age, a multiple of cognitive functions are weakened or temporarily lost. It is found that leukoaraiosis is the most obvious reason of these problems. Even in the middle-aged people, many neurological disorders have been found to be associated with leukoaraiosis.


Leukoaraiosis is a brain related problem, which causes severe damage to the white matters in the brain. Modern research has shown that it can bring many other problems like stroke, dementia and cognitive dysfunctions. On the contrary, many of these disorders can trigger leukoaraiosis. Some medicinal remedies can be applied to prevent further proliferation of the disease, but the specific treatment procedure is not available for this problem till now. Experts, opine that certain preventive steps could be adopted to reduce the risk of Leukoaraiosis to some extent, but everybody needs to have primary awareness regarding the disease and its symptoms.


  1. Debette, S., & Markus, H. S. (2010). The clinical importance of white matter hyperintensities on brain magnetic resonance imaging: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 341, c3666. https://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c3666
  2. Pantoni, L. (2010). Cerebral small vessel disease: from pathogenesis and clinical characteristics to therapeutic challenges. The Lancet Neurology, 9(7), 689-701. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laneur/article/PIIS1474-4422(10)70104-6/fulltext
  3. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Leukoaraiosis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/leukoaraiosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20474464
  4. Erkinjuntti, T., Inzitari, D., Pantoni, L., Wallin, A., Scheltens, P., Rockwood, K., … & Waldemar, G. (2000). Research criteria for subcortical vascular dementia in clinical trials. Journal of Neural Transmission, 59(Suppl), 23-30. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s007020070002
  5. Wardlaw, J. M., Smith, C., & Dichgans, M. (2013). Mechanisms of sporadic cerebral small vessel disease: insights from neuroimaging. The Lancet Neurology, 12(5), 483-497. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laneur/article/PIIS1474-4422(13)70060-7/fulltext
  6. Debette, S., & Markus, H. S. (2010). The clinical importance of white matter hyperintensities on brain magnetic resonance imaging: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 341, c3666. https://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c3666
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 28, 2023

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