Vascular Dementia: What is it?

Everyone has heard of dementia, and the most common form, Alzheimer’s. The second most common form of dementia is vascular dementia. Vascular dementia has a lower profile than Alzheimer’s; so many people don’t suspect it until the symptoms become problematic. It is also difficult to diagnose, but it is estimated that 15-20% of dementia cases are vascular dementia.

Vascular dementia happens when part of the brain doesn’t get enough blood, and in turn, doesn’t get the oxygen or nutrients it needs. This usually happens when the vessels that supply blood to the brain become blocked or narrowed. This is similar to a how a stroke takes place when the supply of blood carrying oxygen to the brain is suddenly cut off, but not all people with will develop vascular dementia.

Vascular dementia can be caused by silent strokes, which are strokes that have no easy-to-recognize symptoms. Often, people do not know that they have a stroke, but it does cause damage to the brain. When these silent strokes pile up, vascular dementia can occur.

Symptoms may include:

  • Problems with short term memory
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Wandering
  • Getting lost in familiar surroundings
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Trouble following through on activities

Symptoms that suddenly get worse often signal a stroke.

Currently, there is no treatment to reverse the effects of vascular dementia. However, a diagnosis provides an opportunity to prevent further damage. Prevention often includes controlling high blood pressure with changes in diet, exercise and medication.

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