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New study finds harmless condition may actually cause more issues for seniors

Posted by RHHAdmin on Aug 13, 2012 8:27:00 AM

The medical field is constantly changing with new discoveries and sometimes it may shed light on issues to elderly care. According to a new study published in the journal "Radiology," a condition once thought of as harmless could actually alter brain function in seniors.

Leukoaraiosis is a common condition that causes small areas of the brain to be deprived of oxygen, causing white dots on an MRI scan. Researchers once thought this condition was harmless, but are now seeing it have effects on seniors' brain function.

"There has been a lot of controversy over these commonly identified abnormalities on MRI scans and their clinical impact," said Dr. Kirk M. Welker, assistant professor of radiology in the College of Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "In the past, leukoaraiosis has been considered a benign part of the aging process, like gray hair and wrinkles."

The researchers looked at 18 elderly participants with a moderate amount of leukoaraiosis (about 25 milliliters) and compared them to a control group of seniors with less than five milliliters of the disease. The study's authors noted those with moderate levels of the condition had decreased activation patterns in the brain, such as the language processing areas.

"Different systems of the brain respond differently to disease," Dr. Welker explained. "White matter damage affects connections within the brain's language network, which leads to an overall reduction in network activity. Our results add to a growing body of evidence that this is a disease we need to pay attention to. Leukoaraiosis is not a benign manifestation of aging but an important pathologic condition that alters brain function."

Welker reports high blood pressure may actually play a role in which seniors are susceptible to the condition, but the disease continues to vary.

Leukoaraiosis has been on the minds of the medical community for a while. According to the National Institutes of Health, it was developed in order to have a name for white spots on a MRI scan that wasn't a specific disease such as Alzheimer's. However, researchers have been trying to figure out if these episodes actually have something to do with certain neurological diseases so they can figure out how to treat it.

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Topics: Health News