Dementia is not simply one condition. Rather, it is a broad term used to describe the symptoms of a large group of illnesses that affect the brain.
There are many kinds of dementia – the second most common, after Alzheimer’s disease, is Vascular dementia.
And approximately 10% of people with dementia have both Alzheimer’s and Vascular dementia.
Dementia causes a progressive decline in a person’s functioning – symptoms vary from person to person, but can include memory problems, issues with thinking and communication.
Vascular dementia is specifically caused by restricted blood flow to the brain, which damages and eventually destroys the brain cells.
This limited flow of blood reaching the brain can be a result of a stroke, or can occur following a series of smaller “mini strokes” which cause damage to the small blood vessels of the brain.
Symptoms of a mini stroke can often be small, weakness on one side of the body, vision problems and slurred speech, and pass quickly, usually in a day, however they can lead onto to bigger strokes which are more dangerous and increase the risk of vascular dementia.
Not everyone who has a stroke will go on to have vascular dementia, however around 20% of stroke survivors will develop vascular dementia within the next six months. There are also some forms of vascular dementia that are not connected to strokes.
People who have a higher risk of developing Vascular dementia include those who have high blood pressure, diabetes, irregular heartbeat.
There are also lifestyle factors that play a role in increasing a person’s risk for Vascular dementia – unhealthy diet, smoking, drinking alcohol, no exercise.
What are the Symptoms of Vascular Dementia?
One of the challenging things about a Vascular dementia diagnosis is that symptoms can vary depending on the part of the brain had its blood flow is impaired.
Due to condition affecting each person differently, vascular dementia may be misdiagnosed as symptoms can overlap with those of other types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Symptoms can develop slowly or start suddenly. The extent of damage will depend on where the blood clot occurs in the brain, and how long blood flow is restricted for.
Vascular dementia symptoms include:
- Slowing down of thought processes
- Trouble paying attention and concentrating
- Reduced ability to organise thoughts or actions
- Feeling disoriented and confused
- Problems with memory
- Restlessness and agitation
- Problems with language, such as inability to remember words for common objects
- Dramatic personality changes, such as becoming aggressive
- Depression, mood swings and lack of enthusiasm, wanting to be alone
- Problems with walking and balance, resulting in falls
- Loss of bladder control
Though there is no cure for vascular dementia, there are ways medical intervention can slow down the progression of the condition.
Treating other pre-existing conditions can greatly decrease your risk of developing Vascular dementia, however it does not guarantee that the person will not develop the condition.
Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and diabetes, should be managed.
Lifestyle changes can also have an impact, with a healthy diet full of fruit and vegetables and more exercise.
If you are worried that you or a loved one may have Vascular dementia, or are exhibiting early symptoms, then it is advised that you consult a doctor or other healthcare professionals.