What is White Matter Hyperintensities?

 In Neurologic

The Definition of white matter hyperintensities is: Nonspecific changes to the blood vessels in the white matter tissue of the brain that cause a bright appearance on a brain Computed Tomography (CT) scan or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

European Radiology, 2010.


  • Aging*
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol (hypocholesteremia)
  • Insulin resistance -> Diabetes, Obesity
  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • History of stroke

*Not everyone of age experience hyperintensities

Possible Disease Associations:

  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Decreased physical function (i.e. walking)

Lifestyle Modifications to help prevent further progression:

  • Smoking cessation
  • Drinking in moderation
  • Diet improvement
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage blood pressure


Debette, S. & Markus, H.S. (2010). The clinical importance of white matter hyperintensities on brain magnetic resonance imaging: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal, 341. https://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c3666

Van Elderen, S.G., et al. (2010). Aortic stiffness is associated with cardiac function and cerebral small vessel disease in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus: Assessment by magnetic resonance imaging. European Radiology, 20(5): 1132-1138. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00330-009-1655-4

Wardlaw, J.M., Valdes Hernandez, M. C., & Munoz-Maniega, S. (2015). What are white matter hyperintensities made of? Journal of the American Heart Association, 4(6). https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.114.001140

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