Vascular dementia is the second
most common form of dementia after Alzheimer disease. It's caused when decreased blood
flow damages brain tissue. Blood flow to brain tissue may be reduced. Or it may be
completely blocked by a blood clot.
Symptoms of vascular dementia may
develop slowly. Or they may develop after a stroke or major surgery, such as heart
bypass surgery or abdominal surgery.
Dementia and other related diseases
and conditions are hard to tell apart because they share similar symptoms. Although
vascular dementia is caused by problems with blood flow to the brain, this blood flow
problem can develop in different ways. Examples of vascular dementia include:
The effect of decreased or no blood
flow on the brain depends on the size and location of the area affected. If a small
area in a part of the brain that controls memory is affected you may be "forgetful." But
this doesn't always change your ability to carry on normal activities. If a larger area
is affected, you may have trouble thinking clearly or solving problems. These problems
may change your ability to function normally.
Researchers think that vascular
dementia will become more common in the next few decades because:
Vascular dementia is caused by a
lack of blood flow to a part of the brain. Blood flow may be decreased or interrupted
Risk factors for vascular dementia
include risk factors for the conditions linked to it, heart disease, stroke, diabetes,
The symptoms of vascular dementia
depend on the location and amount of brain tissue involved. They may appear suddenly
after a stroke, or slowly over time. Symptoms may get worse after another stroke, a
heart attack, or major surgery. These are symptoms of vascular dementia
Your healthcare provider will ask
about your health history and do a physical exam. He or she may also order some of these
Vascular dementia can't be cured. The main goal is to treat the underlying conditions that affect the blood flow to the brain. This can help cut the risk for further damage to brain tissue.
Such treatments may include:
Vascular dementia gets worse over
time and has no cure. But the rate at which the disease gets worse can vary. The disease
can be stable for long periods of time. Some people with vascular dementia may
eventually need a high level of care because of the loss of mental and physical
abilities. Family members may be able to care for a person with vascular dementia early
on. But if the disease progresses, the person may need more specialized care.
Respite programs, adult daycare programs, and other resources can help the caregiver get some time away from the demands of caring for a loved one with vascular dementia.
Long-term care facilities that
specialize in the care of people with dementias, Alzheimer, and other related conditions
are often available if a person affected by vascular dementia can no longer be cared for
at home. Your healthcare provider can recommend caregiver resources.
People with vascular dementia and
their caregivers should talk with their healthcare providers about when to call them.
They will likely advise you to call if symptoms get worse. This can be obvious changes
in behavior, personality, memory, or speech. You should also call if new symptoms
appear, such as sudden weakness or confusion.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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