Vascular dementia may be brought on by a stroke or multiple smaller strokes. Vascular dementia is a gradual or permanent loss of brain function. It can affect memory, thinking, language, judgement, and behavior.
All parts of our body require blood flow to function. When blood flow becomes compromised, the function of the body part or organ can begin to deteriorate because cells start dying off. The brain has one of the richest networks of blood vessels and can be particularly vulnerable to damage if blood flow is decreased.
A stroke occurs in the brain when blood flow is diminished. Side effects of a stroke can include speech and language impairment, changes in motor skills, and even paralysis. A major stroke or multiple smaller strokes can contribute to vascular dementia.
Causes and risk factors for vascular dementia
- A stroke interrupting blood flow to the brain.
- Blood stops flowing to the brain for longer than a few seconds, so the brain cannot receive oxygen, which causes brain cells to die.
- Silent strokes show no symptoms, so damage can be done without the person even being aware of what is occurring.
- Large strokes can affect strength, sensation, and other parts of the nervous system, contributing to vascular dementia.
Other risk factors for vascular dementia include:
- Hardening of the arteries
- High blood pressure
Types of vascular dementia include multi-infarct dementia and Binswanger’s disease.
Signs and symptoms of vascular dementia
Symptoms of vascular dementia can be gradual or progress after a stroke takes place. Symptoms may be seen immediately after a stroke is experienced and may improve for short periods of time.
Symptoms of vascular dementia include:
- Difficulty performing tasks
- Getting lost on familiar routes
- Language problems
- Lack of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Misplacing things
- Changes in personality and social skills
Symptoms can worsen and lead to:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Difficulty with basic tasks
- Forgetting details of current events
- Delusions, depression, or agitation
- Difficulty reading and writing
- Poor judgment
- Wrong word use, impaired pronunciation, or confusing sentences
- Withdrawing from social contact
Vascular dementia has its own symptoms, which may present themselves alongside with common stroke symptoms.