Have you heard of white matter disease? It’s an age-related disorder in which the nerves that connect areas of the brain and connect the brain to the spinal cord deteriorate. There is no cure, and it’s seen most in the elderly.
White matter disease gets its name because the deterioration affects the type of brain tissue known as white matter.
It’s the brain tissue that helps you walk, think, and maintain balance. The white matter helps you solve problems and memorize or learn new things.
As age affects the white matter, the myelin protecting the nerves within the brain starts to wear away. This impacts the signals sent between the different areas of the brain and impacts the senior’s abilities. This sounds a lot like Alzheimer’s, but it’s not. Alzheimer’s affects the gray matter in the brain.
Differences Between White and Gray Brain Matter
The gray brain matter is in the central part of the brain around the spinal cord. It’s composed of the nerve cells. White matter is the nerve fibers. It connects the nerve cells to the different areas of the brain and the spinal cord. Essentially, you have gray matter has the messages to send and the white matter is the path for those messages to get around the brain and body.
Conditions That Can Lead to White Matter Disease
There are conditions that can increase the risk of developing white matter disease. People who smoke are more likely to develop the disease. High blood pressure that remains untreated is another risk factor. People with diabetes and high cholesterol also face an increased chance of developing white matter disease.
Key Symptoms of White Matter Disease
People who have the disease often have a hard time with balance. They may fall more often. Mobility is impacted., too. They may walk slow or have a hard time walking in a straight line.
As the disease can make it hard to concentrate or solve problems, it can be hard to multi-task. They struggle to do more two or three things at the same time. Talking to someone is fine, but talking to someone while trying to cook dinner is hard.
Another thing that can happen as white matter disease worsens is incontinence. The person may need to wear a small pad to keep urine from wetting underwear and pants.
There is no cure for white matter disease. Treating any underlying condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, is essential. If your parent is diagnosed with white matter disease, they’ll need help around the house. Mobility, transfers, and medication reminders are key elderly care services.
Call an elderly care agency to discuss pricing and options. The representative can help you decide what’s important now and what services may become necessary in the future.