Overview

According to the Mayo Clinic Vascular dementia is a general term describing problems with reasoning, planning, judgment, memory, and other thought processes caused by brain damage from impaired blood flow to your brain.

You can develop vascular dementia after a stroke blocks an artery in your brain, but strokes don’t always cause vascular dementia. Whether a stroke affects your thinking and reasoning depends on your stroke’s severity and location. Vascular dementia can also result from other conditions that damage blood vessels and reduce circulation, depriving your brain of vital oxygen and nutrients.

Factors that increase your risk of heart disease and stroke — including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking — also raise your vascular dementia risk. Controlling these factors may help lower your chances of developing vascular dementia.

Symptoms

Vascular dementia symptoms vary, depending on the part of your brain where blood flow is impaired. Symptoms often overlap with those of other types of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease dementia. But unlike Alzheimer’s disease, the most significant symptoms of vascular dementia tend to involve speed of thinking and problem-solving rather than memory loss.

Vascular dementia signs and symptoms include:

Vascular dementia symptoms may be most clear-cut when they occur suddenly following a stroke. When changes in your thinking and reasoning seem clearly linked to a stroke, this condition is sometimes called post-stroke dementia.

Sometimes a characteristic pattern of vascular dementia symptoms follows a series of strokes or ministrokes. Changes in your thought processes occur in noticeable steps downward from your previous level of function, unlike the gradual, steady decline that typically occurs in Alzheimer’s disease dementia.

But vascular dementia can also develop very gradually, just like Alzheimer’s disease dementia. What’s more, vascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease often occur together.

Studies show that many people with dementia and evidence of brain vascular disease also have Alzheimer’s disease.

Causes

Vascular dementia results from conditions that damage your brain’s blood vessels, reducing their ability to supply your brain with the amounts of nutrition and oxygen it needs to perform thought processes effectively.

Common conditions that may lead to vascular dementia include:

Risk factors

In general, the risk factors for vascular dementia are the same as those for heart disease and stroke. Risk factors for vascular dementia include:

Living with vascular dementia

Vascular dementia has no cure, but the rate at which the disease progresses can vary. Some people with vascular dementia may eventually need a high level of care due to the loss of mental and physical abilities. Family members may be able to care for a person with vascular dementia early on. But if the disease progresses, the person may need more specialized care.

Respite programs, adult daycare programs, and other resources can help the caregiver get some time away from the demands of caring for a loved one with vascular dementia.

Long-term care facilities that specialize in the care of people with dementias, Alzheimer’s, and other related conditions are often available if a person affected by vascular dementia can no longer be cared for at home. 

 

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