Vascular dementia (also called “multi-infarct dementia”) is the second most diagnosed form of dementia. It is not nearly as well-known or understood as Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia. Vascular dementia is not easy to diagnose, so medical professionals are unsure how many people truly suffer from it.
In Alzheimer’s disease, nerve cells in the brain break down. In Vascular dementia, the vessels that supply the blood to the brain become increasingly blocked or narrowed. As the brain fails to receive the right amount of blood – and therefore the oxygen and nutrients necessary for survival – strokes often take place.
Unfortunately, these strokes are considered “silent strokes” and don’t necessarily draw attention to themselves until enough strokes cause sudden or significant disability. Also, because Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia are two totally different forms of dementia, it is possible for a person to be diagnosed with both.
Depending on the severity of the damage done to the blood vessels (as well as the part of the brain that has been affected) memory loss may not be significant. Additionally, symptoms may be most severe soon after a stroke.
Specifically, post-stroke changes may include varying degrees of the following symptoms:
- Trouble speaking (or likewise trouble being understood)
- Loss of vision
Brain or Physical Changes
All forms of dementia are serious and should be caught and responded to as quickly as possible. Vascular dementia is no different but responding to symptoms early and working with medical professionals to prevent further damage can actually mean prolonged length and quality of life. In some cases, people who have been diagnosed with vascular dementia appear to improve for certain periods of time.
Causes and/or Risk Factors
Some risk factors of vascular dementia can and should be controlled to curb the risk.
Those risks include the following:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Care
The main components of a vascular dementia diagnosis are as follows:
- Collecting a thorough medical history
- Evaluating independent function with regard to daily activities
- Receiving input and feedback from family or friends with regard to their observations
- Conducting a neurological exam (including brain imaging)
- Assessing function of balance, coordination, movement, nerves, reflexes, and senses
- Taking bloodwork