What is Binswanger disease?

Binswanger disease is a type of dementia caused by extensive, microscopic areas of damage to the deep layers of white matter in the brain.

White matter atrophy also can be caused by many circumstances, including chronic hypertension, as well as age. This damage results in the thickening and narrowing of arteries that feed the subcortal areas of the brain.

Symptoms of Binswanger disease include short-term memory loss, short attention span, inappropriate behaviors, inability to make decisions, change in mood and personality, an unsteady gait, clumsiness or frequent falls and a decrease in organizational skills. The most common characteristic of this disease is a psychomotor slowness.

There is no specific treatment for this disease. Because the disease causes changes in mood and personality, leading to depression, oftentimes individuals with this disease may need antidepressant medications. Anti-psychotic drugs are often administered for individuals experiencing high agitation levels or disruptive behaviors. The drug memantine has been shown to stabilize functioning.

Binswanger is a progressive, degenerating disease, and there is no cure. The disease progresses with sudden or gradual changes. It can coexist with Alzheimer’s disease.

Maintaining healthy heart and brain lifestyles in early adult years can be preventative and can slow the progression.