Vascular dementia

What is vascular dementia?

Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia. It results from a lack of blood flow or narrowing or blockage to the blood vessels supplying the brain. When this happens, brain cells can become damaged and eventually die. This leads to the onset of vascular dementia. A number of conditions can cause this type of damage to the brain. They include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and other heart conditions. People with vascular dementia often have another type of dementia as well, such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia with Lewy bodies.

Symptoms

Just like any other dementia, vascular dementia affects people differently and the speed of progression varies. It usually occurs in a step fashion, meaning symptoms remain steady for some time and then decline suddenly. Symptoms may be similar to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias if the same areas of the brain are damaged and can also include:

  • Confusion
  • Problems with thinking and concentration
  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Visual loss or misperceptions
  • Disorientation and unsteadiness
  • Differences in normal behaviour such as becoming compulsive, aggressive or experiencing anxiety.
  • Memory problems

Diagnosing vascular dementia

People who are at high risk of vascular dementia include those with high blood pressure; high cholesterol; other heart conditions; or have previously had a stoke and are displaying symptoms will usually be taken through a set of tests to assess memory, thinking and reasoning. If vascular dementia is suspected they will then go through a neurological examination and have brain scans done.

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