Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's disease. This factsheet will help you to understand vascular dementia by explaining the causes, symptoms and treatments available.
What do we mean by 'vascular dementia'?
The term 'dementia' is used to describe the symptoms that occur when the brain is damaged by specific diseases. These diseases include Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. Someone with dementia may have difficulties remembering, solving problems or concentrating. Vascular dementia is a type of dementia caused by problems in the supply of blood to the brain.
How does it develop?
To be healthy and function properly, the brain cells need a good supply of blood. The blood is delivered through a network of blood vessels called the vascular system. If the vascular system within the brain becomes damaged and blood cannot reach the brain cells, the cells will eventually die. This can lead to the onset of vascular dementia.
What causes damage to the vascular system in the brain?
There are a number of conditions that can cause or increase damage to the vascular system. These include high blood pressure, heart problems, high cholesterol and diabetes. This means it is important that these conditions are identified and treated at the earliest opportunity.
What are the symptoms?
Vascular dementia affects different people in different ways and the speed of the progression varies from person to person. Some symptoms may be similar to those of other types of dementia.
However, people with vascular dementia may particularly experience:
* problems concentrating and communicating
* depression accompanying the dementia
* symptoms of stroke, such as physical weakness or paralysis
* memory problems (although this may not be the first symptom)
* a 'stepped' progression, with symptoms remaining at a constant level and then suddenly deteriorating
* epileptic seizures
* periods of acute confusion.
Other symptoms associated with vascular dementia may include:
* visual mistakes and misperception
* walking about and getting lost
* changes in behaviour
* problems with continence.