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Vascular Dementia – Symptoms, Treatment, and Prognosis


Vascular DementiaVascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s Disease. It afflicts up to 20 million people across the world at any one time, a figure that is expected to keep growing as the population ages. Like all age-related dementia, it involves the gradual degradation of mental faculties, and is rarely found in people under the age of 65, although early onset is distressingly possible.


Vascular Dementia Causes


The root cause of vascular dementia is a lack of blood flow to the brain, resulting in cell death and incremental brain damage. This often happens as a result of the natural narrowing of veins through age, which reduces the blood supply, with the effects being gradual and slow to be noticed. It can also happen after a stroke event, where the damage occurs quickly. Finally, it can be the accumulated outcome of a series of mini-strokes, each of which causes tiny amounts of damage that build up over time.

Although this condition can strike anyone, high blood pressure is a notable risk factor, which is itself often caused by obesity, a poor diet, and other lifestyle issues such as smoking and a high alcohol intake.


Vascular Dementia Symptoms


The most common early signs of vascular dementia are generally centered around a degeneration in an individual’s mental functioning, including the following effects:

  • Confusion and slowness of thought
  • Poor concentration and difficulty in focusing
  • Trouble with everyday planning and organisation
  • Language problems, both verbal and written
  • Mood shifts, excessive emotion, or changes to normal behavior


What are the causes of vascular dementiaOf course, many of these symptoms can be natural signs of aging, but if they are highly noticeable and cause concern, it’s advisable to speak to your doctor – the earlier a diagnosis of vascular dementia is made, the more can be done to mitigate its effects. Diagnosis will involve mental tests, a physical assessment, and possibly a brain scan.

As the condition progresses, physical symptoms often start to appear, such as loss of bowel and bladder control, and problems with walking and other movement. These physical problems tend to occur earlier on than in other types of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.


Treatment and Prognosis


Unfortunately there is no pharmaceutical treatment for vascular dementia, nor is there any way to reverse any physical damage which has already occurred. Long term, the prognosis isn’t good, with an average survival time of around four years from diagnosis. However, the condition can often be managed fairly successfully through changes to lifestyle to help reduce physical deterioration, along with language, behavioral, and physical therapies to keep the patient stimulated and active.

This combination of therapies can provide a relatively good quality of life in the meantime, and patients can often enjoy extended periods of stability, although ongoing deterioration can sadly still be expected.

If you suspect the early signs of vascular dementia in yourself or a loved one, the most important thing is to seek medical advice as soon as possible. While there is as yet no cure, an early diagnosis can help limit the damage and slow the progress of the condition, as well as giving time to learn techniques to provide a high quality of life while managing the symptoms.


Applewood Our House has four residential assisted living homes for those with memory care needs.

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