The magnetic resonance scans of 22 patients with early-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD) were compared to 16 age-matched neurologically normal controls for the presence of white matter subcortical hyperintensities (SCH) and periventricular hyperintensities (PVH). Patients with AD were significantly more likely to have evidence of PVH (p less than 0.01) than age-matched controls. There was no significant difference between the two groups in either the frequency of SCH or the size of the largest lesion. Within the AD group, there was no difference demonstrated in the location of the SCH, either in the anterior-posterior plane or between the two hemispheres. Patients with AD more frequently demonstrated ventriculomegaly (p less than 0.001) and sulcal widening (p less than 0.05) compared with controls. This study suggests that the SCH seen in early-onset AD patients on MRI are related more to the aging process than to the AD process and that the increased frequency of PVH may have a relationship to the disease process.