White matter diseases are a group of conditions that predominantly or significantly affect the white matter of the brain. They comprise a vast heterogeneous group and have a variety of appearances and presentations. They cause disease by altering the process of normal myelination.
White matter disease can be broadly grouped into:
- demyelinating disorders cause the damage or destruction of previously normally myelinated structures, e.g. multiple sclerosis, ADEM
- dysmyelinating disorders result from the abnormal structure and function of myelin, usually secondary to a hereditary disorder, e.g. leukodystrophies
- hypomyelinating disorders are those with a reduction in the amount of myelination, e.g. hypomyelination of prematurity
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