The pathophysiology and clinical significance of high signal lesions, visualized on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), remain controversial. Since they are known to correlate with vascular disease and vascular risk factors, we reviewed the clinical correlates of periventricular high signal (PVH) and subcortical white matter lesions (WML) in a sample of 106 patients with probable AD, excluding persons with treated vascular risk factors or symptomatic cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease. Grade 2 PVH were seen in 26 (25%) and scattered WML were identified in 29 (18%). PHV were associated with advancing age and gait disturbance. WML were associated with gait disturbance and incontinence. Neither radiologic finding was related to dementia severity. The findings suggest that these lesions are common in patients with AD even when those with evidence of cerebrovascular disease are excluded; their presence, therefore, should not preclude a diagnosis of AD. Additionally, the data suggest that HSL on MRI may be one of many risk factors associated with functional disability in persons with probable AD.