MRI spots: white matter hyperintensity


You may be alarmed to learn that there are several tiny white dots visible on an MRI scan of your brain. White spots can certainly be a cause for concern. They can even explain the symptoms that led your healthcare provider to order an MRI in the first place. However, there are many explanations that are not alarming.

Your healthcare professional will determine the significance and cause of the spots based on your medical history and the results of the exam. Other diagnostic tests can also be used to determine the number of spots, their size and appearance, and their location in the brain.

This article will look at some of the common causes of white spots on an MRI of the brain, as well as risk factors and treatment options.

Get Medication Information / Brianna Gilmartin

What are white spots?

Spots on an MRI of the brain are caused by changes in water content and fluid movement that occur in brain tissue when brain cells are inflamed or damaged. These lesions are easier to see on T2-weighted images, a term that describes the frequency (speed) of the radio pulses used during the scan.

White spots on an MRI report can be described in different ways:

  • 'High signal intensity areas'
  • "Hyperintense white matter" or lesions that appear bright white on certain MRI sequences.
  • "Leukoaraiosis" is the term used when spots are suspected to be due to decreased blood flow.
  • 'Nonspecific changes in white matter '

White spots are usually found in the white matter of the brain, usually near the ventricles, four cavities located in the brain that contain cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). But they can be located anywhere in the brain.


Minor strokes are the most common cause of white spots on an MRI of the brain. Small strokes often occur due to blockage of small blood vessels due to high blood pressure and / or diabetes. Severe strokes are usually caused by heart disease or carotid artery disease.

Sometimes the white spots are caused by silent bumps , which are small bumps that do not cause symptoms. A silent stroke may not cause symptoms if you have enough healthy brain function to make up for a small area of brain damage.

Silent strokes often occur in deeper areas of the brain and are usually caused by blockages in small blood vessels .

Other causes of white spots on an MRI of the brain include:

Risk factor's

Risk factors that lead to stroke and make it worse include:

Other risk factors that contribute to white spots on an MRI of the brain include:

  • Older age : a certain degree of change in white matter with age is expected.
  • Genetics : If you are of Hispanic or African American descent, you have a higher risk of developing white matter lesions on an MRI of the brain.

Treatment and prevention

Sometimes the white spot can disappear after treatment, for example if it is an infection or a brain tumor. They can also decrease temporarily and possibly get worse again later. This usually happens with inflammatory conditions like lupus or multiple sclerosis that get worse and then get better.

The spots may decrease in size several months after a mild stroke. Also, they can get worse if stroke risk factors are not treated, leading to more damage.

Working with your healthcare professional can help you understand the results of an MRI scan and can help you plan treatment to prevent and / or address the underlying cause of your white spots.

Treatment may include prescription drugs, surgery, or lifestyle strategies to promote brain health, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising.


White spots on an MRI of the brain are not always a cause for concern. There are many possible causes, including vitamin deficiencies, infections, migraines, and strokes. Other risk factors for white spots include age, genetics, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. The best way to prevent white spots is by following healthy habits like a nutritious diet and regular exercise.

Get the word of drug information

It can be scary to hear that there are white spots on the MRI.

The reason for these changes is complex, and you may need additional tests to determine if you have an inflammatory condition, vascular disease, or some other cause. While the lesions themselves may not always respond to treatment, there are a number of effective strategies that can reduce your chances of developing new spots in the future.

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