Vascular dementia

Specialty of Neurology

What is vascular dementia? 

Vascular dementia is a type of dementia caused by impaired blood flow to the brain.

There are two types of vascular dementia: 

  1. Multi-infarct dementia, when dementia or brain damage is caused by numerous smaller strokes (blockages of blood to the brain).
  2. Single-infarct dementia, which is when a single stroke causes dementia or brain damage, depending on the part of the brain affected. The following can result - aphasia (loss or alteration of language that causes difficulties for speech and linguistic comprehension) and apraxia (a decrease in the ability to perform certain movements).

What are the symptoms of vascular dementia? 

The symptoms of vascular dementia can manifest gradually or progress after a small stroke. 

The preliminary symptoms of dementia are: 

  • Difficulty performing easy tasks
  • Getting lost in familiar surroundings
  • Language problems 
  • Changes in mood 
  • Loss of social skills

As the dementia gets worse, the symptoms are more evident and the ability to take care of oneself diminishes. 

Some of these symptoms are: 

  • Changes in sleep patterns 
  • Difficulty performing basic tasks such as cooking, choosing the appropriate clothes or driving 
  • Forgetting facts and details of your own life
  • Depression 
  • Difficulty reading or writing 
  • Using the wrong words 
  • Hallucinating or violent behaviour

What causes vascular dementia?

Vascular dementia is caused by a reduction in blood flow to the brain. This can result from:

  • blockages or narrowing of blood vessels in the brain
  • multiple small strokes 
  • a bigger single stroke that cuts flow of blood to part of the brain

Can vascular dementia be prevented? 

The key to preventing vascular dementia is maintaining your cardiovascular health, as a healthy heart generally means you have healthy blood vessels in your brain. The following can help with this:

  • maintaining a healthy blood pressure
  • avoiding type 2 diabetes, or managing it well
  • no smoking
  • exercising regularly
  • eating a low-fat diet

What is the treatment for vascular dementia? 

There is currently no cure for vascular dementia, but treatment can slow down its progression. Treatment also cannot reverse the loss of brain cells caused by this condition. Treatments focus on the underlying cause – often improving poor cardiovascular health with diet, lifestyle changes and medications. Certain psychological therapies might be used as well. 

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