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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Binswanger's disease


Other Names for this Disease
  • Dementia multi-infarct
  • Multi-infarct dementia
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

What causes Binswanger's disease? How is it diagnosed? Who is most commonly affected? What are the signs and symptoms? How is it treated? What is the prognosis?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is Binswanger's disease?

Binswanger's disease is a type of dementia caused by widespread, microscopic areas of damage to the deep layers of white matter in the brain.[1] Most affected people experience progressive memory loss and deterioration of intellectual abilities (dementia); urinary urgency or incontinence; and an abnormally slow, unsteady gait (style of walking).[2] While there is no cure, the progression of Binswanger's disease can be slowed with healthy lifestyle choices. Treatment is based on the signs and symptoms present in each person.[1]
Last updated: 10/8/2015

What are the signs and symptoms of Binswanger's disease?

The signs and symptoms associated with Binswanger's disease generally disrupt tasks related to "executive cognitive functioning," including short-term memory, organization, mood, the regulation of attention, the ability to make decisions, and appropriate behavior. Binswanger's disease is primarily characterized by psychomotor slowness - an increase in the length of time it takes, for example, for the fingers to turn the thought of a letter into the shape of a letter on a piece of paper. Other symptoms include forgetfulness (but not as severe as the forgetfulness of Alzheimer disease); changes in speech; an unsteady gait; clumsiness or frequent falls; changes in personality or mood (most likely in the form of apathy, irritability, and depression); and urinary symptoms that aren't caused by urological disease.[1][2]
Last updated: 10/8/2015

What causes Binswanger's disease?

Binswanger's disease occurs when the blood vessels that supply the deep structures of the brain become obstructed (blocked). As the arteries become more and more narrowed, the blood supplied by those arteries decreases and brain tissue dies. This can be caused by atherosclerosis, thromboembolism (blood clots) and other diseases such as CADASIL.[1][2]

Risk factors for Binswanger's disease include:[2]
Last updated: 10/8/2015

Is Binswanger's disease an inherited condition?

Although Binswanger's disease is not considered an inherited condition, genetics may play a role in many of the conditions and risk factors that are associated with the disease (i.e. atherosclerosis, blood clots).
Last updated: 10/8/2015

Who is most commonly affected by Binswanger's disease?

The thickening and narrowing (atherosclerosis) of arteries that feed the subcortical areas of the brain typically begins late in the fourth decade of life and increases in severity with age.[1]
Last updated: 10/8/2015

How is Binswanger's disease diagnosed?

A diagnosis of Binswanger's disease is often suspected based on the presence of characteristic signs and symptoms. Additional testing can then be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. This generally consists of imaging studies of the brain (i.e. CT scan and/or MRI scan).[1][2]
Last updated: 10/8/2015

How is Binswanger's disease treated?

The brain damage associated with Binswanger's disease is not reversible. Treatment is based on the signs and symptoms present in each person. For example, medications may be prescribed to treat depression, agitation, and other symptoms associated with the condition. Successful management of hypertension and diabetes can slow the progression of atherosclerosis, which can delay the progression of Binswanger's disease.[1][2]
Last updated: 10/8/2015

What is the long-term outlook for people with Binswanger's disease?

The long-term outlook (prognosis) for people with Binswanger's disease is poor. There is, unfortunately, no cure for the condition and it is considered progressive since the symptoms tend to worsen over time. Changes may be sudden or gradual and then progress in a stepwise manner. Binswanger's disease can often coexist with Alzheimer disease.[1]

Behaviors that slow the progression of high blood pressure, diabetes, and atherosclerosis -- such as eating a healthy diet and keeping healthy wake/sleep schedules, exercising, and not smoking or drinking too much alcohol -- can also slow the progression of Binswanger's disease.[1]
Last updated: 10/8/2015

References
Other Names for this Disease
  • Dementia multi-infarct
  • Multi-infarct dementia
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.