Vascular dementia is a common form of dementia that disrupts the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain. Although it is not reversible, there are ways to manage this condition.

Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a range of neurodegenerative conditions. People with dementia may experience memory loss, difficulty communicating, and behavioral changes. After Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is the most common form of dementia.

Individuals with vascular dementia experience damage to blood vessels in the brain, which disrupts the flow of oxygen and blood. Over time, this leads to symptoms such as memory issues or speech difficulties.

This article discusses vascular dementia in more detail, including its current treatments. The article also answers some common questions about the condition.

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The experience of vascular dementia varies between individuals. People who experience a stroke may be at a higher risk of developing this condition.

When blood vessels in the brain are damaged, this limits the delivery of important materials to cells in the brain. In some cases, this damage may lead to vascular dementia.

The onset of vascular dementia can occur immediately after a stroke. Blockage to the brain’s blood vessels during a stroke can rapidly cause the symptoms of vascular dementia. This condition may also begin gradually with mild symptoms that worsen over time.

Symptoms

The symptoms of vascular dementia depend on the individual and the severity of their condition. Some of the most common symptoms include issues with:

  • remembering recent or past events
  • performing daily tasks
  • keeping track of personal items such as car keys
  • navigating in familiar surroundings
  • sleeping
  • writing or reading
  • concentrating
  • recognizing danger

Individuals with vascular dementia may also experience delusions or hallucinations. This can make it difficult for them to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Vascular dementia can also make it challenging for people to regulate mood or emotions.

The symptoms of vascular dementia typically arise slowly over time. Certain symptoms may even improve before worsening again.

Individuals who suspect they or a loved one may be showing signs of vascular dementia should consult a doctor. Taking an early approach to treatment can help slow the progress of this condition.

Causes

There are several different types of vascular dementia. Each type of this condition has a distinct cause. For example, having a stroke may cause vascular dementia in certain individuals. But not everyone who experiences a stroke will develop this disease.

Subcortical vascular dementia is a common type of this condition. In this case, small vessel disease causes damage to small blood vessels in the brain.

Over time, this damage twists and stiffens these vessels, reducing blood flow into the brain. High blood pressure may contribute to the development or worsening of this condition.

In addition to stroke or high blood pressure, several other factors can increase the risk of vascular dementia. These may include:

Making lifestyle modifications can help reduce the risk of vascular dementia. Avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and following a healthy diet and exercise routine are just a few examples.

It is not possible to reverse damage to the brain. For example, the damage that occurs to the brain after a stroke is permanent.

However, it is possible to take measures to limit further damage and slow the progression of vascular dementia. For example, medications to treat high blood pressure and cholesterol can help prevent strokes in the future.

A healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise can help slow the onset of vascular dementia symptoms. A person may also need physical or speech therapy after a stroke to help regain physical functions.

Some dementia medications may help address the symptoms of vascular dementia. Research has shown that donepezil and galantamine may reduce cognitive symptoms in people with the condition.

However, research into medications for vascular dementia remains limited. Further studies are needed to uncover more ways to stop or minimize disease progression.

Research estimates the 5-year mortality rate for vascular dementia at around 60%. This survival rate is notably higher than other forms of dementia.

Other studies have shown that people with blood circulation or heart conditions have a lower life expectancy following a vascular dementia diagnosis. As such, taking steps to promote heart health may increase a person’s life span.

During the early stages of vascular dementia, people may require only limited care. However, they may need continuous support from an experienced carer as the disease progresses.

Maintaining a positive and familiar environment can improve the quality of life for those with vascular dementia. Taking steps to monitor a person’s activity and whereabouts is also crucial in advanced cases.

The experience of vascular dementia is unique to each individual. Only a medical professional can provide individualized answers to questions about this condition.

Below are some of the most common questions and answers about vascular dementia.

Is vascular dementia permanent?

Vascular dementia is a permanent condition, and it is not possible to reverse damage to the brain. However, lifestyle changes and medications may help delay the onset or worsening of certain symptoms.

What are the seven stages of vascular dementia?

The seven stages of vascular dementia occur as follows:

  1. Mild or no cognitive decline.
  2. Occasional forgetfulness or memory lapses.
  3. Some cognitive issues that can affect work, reading, or concentration.
  4. Mild dementia symptoms that may cause mood or personality changes.
  5. Moderate symptoms of dementia that may require professional support.
  6. Moderately severe symptoms that range from delusions to anxiety and agitation.
  7. Severe symptoms that necessitate carer support.

Individuals who are showing symptoms of vascular dementia should consult with a medical professional. Only a doctor can accurately determine the stage an individual may be experiencing.

Does vascular dementia progress quickly?

The timeline for vascular dementia is unique for each individual. In the event of a severe stroke, the symptoms of this condition may occur immediately. In other cases, individuals may experience milder symptoms for some time before they receive a diagnosis.

Vascular dementia is a form of dementia caused by damage to blood vessels in the brain. Symptoms are similar to those of other types of dementia. These include issues with memory, concentration, and performing daily tasks.

Recognizing the signs of vascular dementia early is the best way to slow disease progression. In addition, making healthy lifestyle changes early in life may help prevent this condition from developing.

Although there is no way to reverse vascular dementia, treatments are available to help. The right medical and caretaking support can help individuals with this condition live comfortably.

Person should speak with a healthcare professional if they think they or someone else may have vascular dementia.