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I've just had results for a recent MRI of the brain and orbits...

I've just had results for a recent MRI of the brain and orbits. The letter was to my gp copied to myself. It said white matter changes and thinning of the left optic nerve. The optic nerve part I expected as I had optic neuritis two years ago, what does white matter changes mean? Is that the same as lesions? I'm fully aware of the ms connection with optic neuritis however previous scans have always been clear. Don't see consultant till April so just wondered what this meant. Thanks

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The answer

Hello, thankyou for contacting us with your question and we're sorry to hear about your concerns.

White matter in the brain is the part of the brain made up of cells called axons, all the axons connect one to the other so that nerve cells can communicate These axoms are full of an insulating layer of fatty tissue known as Myelin which is of course white in colour. One description that has been applied to white matter is to think of the nervous system as a mix of grey matter non myelinated nerve cells and capilliaries and white matter, the axons, grey matter representing the computer of the nervous system and white matter the cables so if there is a problem with the white matter you could think of this as fraying or poorly performing cables that also could cause some issues with how the grey matter ( computer) performs. However, until recently some white matter changes were attributed to the normal aging process and, they still can be, while research has shown that certain types of white matter changes such as inflammation can be implicated in contributing to several neurological conditions as well as possibly being involved in the formation of problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure. This last group being the subject of emerging research.

To answer your question white matter changes are not the same as lesions, and unfortunately it is not possible to know if there is any significance to the white matter changes seen on your MRI without a full assessment of your health, however do bear in mind this may just be the normal changes that we see as part of the aging process. Given your previous history of optic neuritis it would make sense to make an appointment to see your Gp to discuss your results from the MRI they will be able to guide you on this and to talk through any concerns you are having.

Best of luck with this and please contact us again if you have any further questions we can help with,

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses