Introduction to Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia is a group of syndromes of cognitive impairment that are caused by disease of blood vessels.
What is Vascular Dementia?
Vascular dementia is a group of syndromes of cognitive impairment that are caused by disease of blood vessels. There are various subtypes of vascular dementia, which include: stoke related vascular dementia (result of a series of small strokes), subcortical vascular dementia (small vessel disease) and mixed dementia (vascular dementia occurring with Alzheimer’s dementia). Vascular dementia accounts for approximately 17% of dementia cases in the UK and is the second most common cause of dementia.
What causes Vascular Dementia?
Vascular dementia is caused when an artery supplying the brain becomes blocked or starts to bleed. This is caused by cerebrovascular disease, most commonly a stroke. Risk factors for vascular dementia include: previous strokes, heart murmurs, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity, heart disease or family history of stroke or cardiovascular disease.
What are the symptoms of Vascular Dementia?
Vascular dementia can progress gradually or suddenly. The history of dementia can usually go back several months to years. The main symptoms include: cognitive decline including memory loss, onset of memory loss after a stroke, visual disturbances, reduced attention, reduced concentration, seizures, depression, anxiety, incontinence and emotional distress.
How is Vascular Dementia treated?
Unfortunately there is no cure for dementia and treatment is for the symptoms caused by dementia. It is important to first treat any risk factors that increase your risk of cardiovascular disease as this can slow the progression of vascular dementia. Other interventions can be tailored to an individual’s personal preference such as: cognitive stimulating programmes, music and art therapy, massage, animal assisted therapy and some exercise programmes.
There is no specific medication that can be given to patients with vascular dementia. There is some medication such as donepezil and galantamine that can improve cognitive function, however most of the medication for Alzheimer’s dementia is not effective in vascular dementia.
Patients should be cared for in the community as much as possible, however they may be considered for inpatient admission if they at risk for their own safety or safety of others.