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Vascular Dementia

When it comes to dementia, there are several different types that can present a variety of symptoms in how they attack the brain and other functions. It’s important to be able to differentiate among the various types so that you can be able to tell when something is wrong with a loved one and get the right treatment as soon as possible.

Vascular dementia is one of the many forms of dementia that can lead to deteriorating brain function and other impairments. Let’s take a close look at this type of dementia as well as its symptoms, causes and treatments.

What is Vascular Dementia?

Vascular dementia is the condition that occurs when blood vessels in the brain are impaired, leading to changes in thinking.  When blood flow to the brain is blocked or reduced, brain cells don’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need. The brain becomes damaged from impaired blood flow. In the case of vascular dementia, thinking skills are impacted.

Vascular dementia is considered the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. It accounts for ten percent of all cases.

What are the Symptoms of Vascular Dementia?

The symptoms of vascular dementia can vary from patient to patient depending on how badly the blood vessels in the part of the brain are damaged and what part of the brain was affected.

Symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Trouble speaking or understanding others
  • Vision problems
  • Impaired judgment
  • Irritability
  • Depression

The issue with vascular dementia is that many times it goes unnoticed or is misdiagnosed. If you notice any of the above symptoms, especially if your loved one has suffered a stroke, call a doctor. He or she will likely start with an assessment of memory and cognitive skills. If that assessment shows reason for concern, then a more thorough work-up will be done.

A doctor will take a look at the patient’s full medical history as well as any family history of dementia. A neurological test will also be done to assess nerve functions, reflexes, movement, coordination and balance. Blood tests and brain imaging are also vital parts of a diagnosis. Imaging, such as an MRI, can give doctors a view of the blood vessels in the brain and which ones may be constricted.

What are the Causes of Vascular Dementia?

Stroke is a common cause of vascular dementia because a stroke will block an artery in your brain. Whether your thinking and reasoning will be affected and develop into vascular dementia will depend on what part of the brain the stroke affected and how severe it was.

Any other condition that damages blood vessels and reduces circulation can lead to vascular dementia. Any factors that increase your risk of heart disease and stroke can also affect your chances of developing vascular dementia. That is why smokers and people who have diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are at a greater risk of developing vascular dementia.

While a stroke may trigger symptoms right away, in other patients, the onset may be more gradual and get progressively worse. Its progression can resemble Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Most people with vascular dementia start having symptoms after age 65. The risk increases for people in their 80s and 90s.

What is the Treatment for Vascular Dementia?

As with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, there is no cure for vascular dementia. The only thing that can be done for patients is to prescribe medications that can make the symptoms easier to manage. These typically include medicines that treat memory problems and are used in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Since vascular dementia can affect mood and lead to depression, medicines to treat these types of symptoms are also sometimes prescribed. The treatment for vascular depression is on a case by case basis since its severity and how it affects the brain can differ from patient to patient.

Physical exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can help when it comes to keeping your brain and body healthy. This can help to treat symptoms as well as long as the patient is still able to do some type of exercise.

Find Vascular Dementia Care Near You

Depending on the severity of a patient’s condition, home care may be an option in the beginning. As with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, the symptoms gets worse and many times home care is no longer an option.

The patient begins to require more skilled care around the clock that you cannot provide. In these cases, you may want to look into a memory care facility that specializes in dementia care. These types of facilities can help patients deal with the symptoms and provide a safe environment for them as they deal with their condition. They can also provide activities that are appropriate for their condition.

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