Vascular dementia memory loss may be due to stroke or multiple smaller strokes. Vascular dementia is a gradual or permanent loss of brain function that occurs in relation to other diseases. Vascular dementia can affect memory, thinking, language, judgement and behavior.
All parts of our body require blood flow to function. When blood flow becomes compromised then the function of the body part or organ can begin to fail because cells start to die 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 as blood is reduced to the brain.
Vascular dementia causes
Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. Vascular dementia can be caused by a series of small strokes, which can be caused by a number of factors.
- 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, which can contribute to vascular dementia.
Other risk factors of vascular dementia include:
- Hardening of the arteries
- High blood pressure
Types of vascular dementia include multi-infarct dementia and Binswanger’s disease.
Vascular dementia symptoms
Symptoms of vascular dementia can be gradual or progress after the occurrence of a stroke. 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
- Having delusions, depression or agitation
- Difficulty reading and writing
- Poor judgment
- Using the wrong word, pronunciation is wrong or sentences are confusing
- Withdrawing from social contact
Vascular dementia has its own symptoms, but symptoms may also be present along with common stroke symptoms.
Vascular dementia treatment
Unfortunately the damage that has been done from a stroke cannot be undone, so it’s important to control symptoms and risk factors that can lead to an additional stroke. Some prevention tips include:
- Avoiding fatty foods
- Not consuming more than two alcoholic beverages a day
- Controlling blood pressure in healthy range
- Controlling cholesterol levels
- Quitting smoking
- Your doctor may prescribe blood thinners as a means to prevent blood clots, which can cause stroke
Treatment options for a person with vascular dementia at home are:
- Managing behaviors, confusion, sleep problems and agitation
- Removing safety hazards within the home
- Supporting family members and caregivers
Medication may be used to ease agitation, aggression and even depression. Alzheimer’s disease medications have not been shown effective for vascular dementia. If a person has trouble hearing or seeing, glasses, hearing aids or cataract surgery may be beneficial as well.