Binswanger Disease

What is Binswanger Disease

Binswanger disease is a rare form of dementia. Dementia is the loss of two or more brain functions, such as:

  • Memory.
  • Decision making.
  • Behavior.
  • Speaking.
  • Thinking.
  • Problem solving.

Binswanger disease is associated with damage to the largest and deepest part of the brain (white matter). White matter is made up of nerve fibers (axons) protected by a mixture of fats and proteins (axons). White matter connects parts of the brain and allows nerves to signal to one another.

Binswanger disease is progressive. This means that it gets worse over time and it is irreversible.

What are the causes?

This condition is caused by the narrowing and hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis) in the brain. Atherosclerosis can restrict and eventually block blood flow within an artery. When this happens, the brain does not get enough oxygen, and brain tissue dies. When this happens to white matter in the brain, Binswanger disease can develop.

What increases the risk?

The following factors may make you more likely to develop this condition:

  • Being 50 years and older.
  • Smoking.
  • Having high blood pressure.
  • Having high cholesterol.
  • Having diabetes.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition may include:

  • Short-term memory loss.
  • Changes in mood or personality.
  • Depression.
  • Decreased attention span.
  • Decreased ability to make decisions.
  • Behavior problems.
  • Changes in speech.
  • Slower movements.
  • Unsteady movement (gait) and frequent falls.
  • Loss of bladder control.
  • Stroke.

Symptoms generally get worse over time. New symptoms may develop as the disease progresses.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed with an assessment by your health care provider. During this assessment, your health care provider will talk with you and your family, friends, or caregivers about your symptoms. You may have tests, including:

  • Memory tests.
  • Blood tests.
  • CT scan of the brain.
  • MRI of the brain.

How is this treated?

There is no cure for this condition, but medicines may help to control certain symptoms, such as:

  • High blood pressure.
  • Depression.
  • Irregular heartbeats or rhythms (arrhythmias).
  • Behavior and memory problems.

Your health care provider can help direct you to support groups, organizations, and other health care providers who can help with decisions about your care.

Follow these instructions at home:


  • Make healthy lifestyle choices:
    • Be physically active as told by your health care provider.
    • Do notuse any tobacco products, such as cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
    • Limit alcohol intake to no more than 1 drink per day for nonpregnant women and 2 drinks per day for men. One drink equals 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1½ oz of hard liquor.
    • Eat a healthy diet.
    • Practice stress-management techniques when you get stressed.
    • Stay social.
  • Drink enough fluid to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.
  • Make sure to get quality sleep.
    • Avoid napping during the day.
    • Keep your sleeping area dark and cool.
    • Avoid exercising during the few hours before you go to bed.
    • Avoid caffeine products in the evening.

General instructions

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Work with your health care provider to determine what you need help with and what your safety needs are.
  • If you were given a bracelet that tracks your location, make sure to wear it.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You develop any new symptoms.
  • You develop symptoms of a different illness.
  • You have problems with swallowing.
  • You have a fever.

Get help right away if:

  • You suddenly develop:
    • Weakness or numbness in any part of the body.
    • Confusion or dizziness.
    • Vision changes.
    • Difficulty walking.
    • Loss of balance or coordination.
    • A severe headache.
  • You have difficulty speaking or understanding words.
  • You have chest pain.
  • You have an irregular heartbeat.

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