Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology
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Year : 2009  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 12-21

Differential diagnosis of white matter diseases in the tropics: An overview

Department of Neurology, KS Hegde Medical Academy, Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Lekha Pandit
Department of Neurology, KS Hegde Medical Academy, Mangalore-575 018, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-2327.48846

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In hospitals in the tropics, the availability of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) facilities in urban areas and especially in teaching institutions have resulted in white matter diseases being frequently reported in a variety of clinical settings. Unlike the west where multiple sclerosis (MS) is the commonest white matter disease encountered, in the tropics, there are myriad causes for the same. Infectious and post infectious disorders probably account for the vast majority of these diseases. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection tops the list of infective conditions. Central nervous system (CNS) tuberculosis occasionally presents with patchy parenchymal lesions unaccompanied by meningeal involvement. Human T cell leukemia virus (HTLV) infection and cystic inflammatory lesions such as neurocysticercosis are important causes to be considered in the differential diagnosis. Diagnosing post infectious demyelinating disorders is equally challenging since more than a third of cases seen in the tropics do not present with history of past infection or vaccinations. Metabolic and deficiency disorders such as Wernicke's encephalopathy, osmotic demyelinating syndrome associated with extra pontine lesions and Vitamin B12 deficiency states can occassionaly cause confusion in diagnosis. This review considers a few important disorders which manifest with white matter changes on MRI and create diagnostic difficulties in a population in the tropics.

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