Vascular Dementia

Vascular Dementia

Vascular disease is the second most common cause of dementia. Vascular Dementia is usually caused by multiple strokes and, occasionally, by a single stroke. Stroke occurs when blood flow in the brain is blocked by a blood clot in an artery or when an artery bursts and when this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and die. People who have a large stroke will usually experience difficulties such as paralysis on one side of the body, speech and language problems or difficulties with coordination and movement. Some small strokes may just cause a ‘funny turn’ or not be noticed at all. However, each stroke is contributing to a build-up of damage to the brain, which can cause dementia.

Symptoms of vascular dementia are very similar to Alzheimer’s disease. However, distinguishing features include neurological symptoms including weakness, clumsiness or altered sensation in the limbs or face.

Anyone can be affected by vascular dementia, but several factors increase the risk. These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • History of mild warning strokes
  • Evidence of disease in arteries elsewhere
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities.

Vascular dementia is slightly more common in men than women.

Some of the abilities lost in people with Alzheimer’s disease may remain relatively unaffected in people with vascular dementia, since the condition affects the brain in a patchy fashion – symptoms can remain steady for a while and then suddenly decline. People with vascular dementia may also understand what is happening to them, more so than those with other forms of dementia, and this can make them prone to depression.

Vascular dementia is usually diagnosed through neurological examination and brain scanning techniques such as computerised tomography (CT) or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. Vascular dementia can be very difficult to distinguish from other forms of dementia and it is common to have both Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia.

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