After Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is the most common. This form of dementia develops due to a reduction in blood flow and blood vessel functioning, causing damage within the brain. Symptoms vary and there is currently no cure.
What is Vascular Dementia?
Although less well known, vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia, as Alzheimer’s is the most prominent. When individuals suffer from symptoms of dementia, they generally experience reduced cognition functioning, including memory loss, difficulties with thinking and problem-solving, as well as language.
In patients with vascular dementia, their symptoms surface due to issues with the blood supply to their brain. Based on this cause, there are various types of vascular dementia, such as stroke-related or subcortical dementia. Although symptoms can vary, there are common symptoms and all types involve damaged blood vessels and a reduction in blood flow.
Key Symptoms of Vascular Dementia
As mentioned, symptoms of vascular dementia differ based on types and individual differences. In some cases, such as after a stroke, symptoms may develop rapidly. In other cases, symptoms will develop more gradually based on disease or some other factor.
Across all forms of dementia, there are common symptoms, as well as differences amongst symptoms. When suffering from vascular dementia, individuals typically experience:
- Struggle to follow a step of steps, for example, following and cooking a recipe.
- Problems with planning, decision-making, and problem-solving.
- A reduction in speed of thought.
- Lack of concentration
In some cases, problems may also arise such as memory impairments, a reduced understanding and ability to communicate language and issues perceiving 3D objects. With that being said, memory is not generally one of the symptoms experienced in the early stages.
Causes of Vascular Dementia
As mentioned, vascular dementia occurs when there’s a reduction in blood flow to the brain, due to diseased blood vessels. Since blood flow is reduced, the brain does not receive enough oxygen and nutrient-rich blood.
When the brain’s vascular system is damaged, blood cannot reach the brain cells in this area, resulting in cell death. Due to dead brain cells, problems may arise regarding thinking, memory, problem-solving, or reasoning. Once symptoms impact daily life, individuals are typically diagnosed with vascular dementia.
There are multiple risk factors that can put you at risk, including age, genetics, lifestyle factors, and underlying cardiovascular disease. This makes sense, as this type of dementia is due to issues with blood flow. Therefore, when you suffer from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, you increase your risk of complications.
Possible Treatment Options
Currently, there is no cure for vascular dementia. Treatment plans are offered to improve symptoms that may be positively impacted through medication or therapy.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014) Vascular Dementia. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vascular-dementia/basics/definition/con-20029330