Definition

Vascular dementia (VD) is a type of dementia. It is caused by disease of the small blood vessels in the brain. This makes it harder for your brain to get the oxygen it needs to work.

Healthy and Injured Brain Blood Vessels
Blood Flow and Lack of Blood Flow to the Brain
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Causes

VD occurs when brain cells die because they do not get enough oxygen and nutrients. This is due to hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels in the brain.

Risk Factors

VD is more common in older adults.

Having one or more of these risk factors may raise your chance of VD:

Symptoms

In some people, signs of VD appear quickly with changes like those caused by a stroke. Sometimes, the small strokes that lead to VD can happen without other signs. This makes VD hard to detect.

In some cases, things may stay the same or even get better. But VD worsens in most people.

The main symptoms of VD are:

  • Loss of intellectual abilities, speed of thinking or acting, and cognitive and motor abilities
  • Memory loss
  • Problems walking
  • Incontinence

Other symptoms are:

  • Personality changes
  • Laughing, crying, or smiling at the wrong times
  • Problems speaking
  • Swallowing problems
  • Paralysis or lack of strength in one or both sides of the body
  • Inactivity
  • Depression, which may cause a loss of interest in activities
  • Tremors, clumsiness, loss of trunk mobility
  • Seizures
  • Nighttime confusion
  • Paranoia

Diagnosis

VD can look like other causes of dementia, such as Alzheimer.

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.

Pictures may be taken of your brain and body structures. This can be done with:

Cognitive testing may also be done.

Treatment

There is no known cure for VD. The goal is to slow VD and make your quality of life better.

You may be given medicine control mental health problems, such as depression and confusion.

You may also be given medicine to treat other conditions you may have, such as:

Prevention

Taking these steps may reduce your risk of VD:

  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how you can successfully quit.
  • Eat a diet that is low in fat and salt. Diets that include fish, such as the Mediterranean Diet, may help.
  • Limit alcohol. This means no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
  • Have your blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels checked at least once a year.
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood glucose in your goal range.
  • Exercise regularly.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 06/2018 -
  • Update Date: 06/14/2018 -