Written By:  Gayle Horton

Vascular dementia is the second most common form of memory loss and usually occurs after a stroke. The blood flow to the brain may be affected by an occlusion in the arteries leading to the brain. The patient will experience more difficulty with their thought process without the appropriate amount of oxygen going to their brain.

Vascular dementia refers to a subtle, progressive decline in memory and cognitive functioning. If the blood supply is blocked for longer than a few seconds, brain cells can die, causing damage to the brain in the area associated with learning, memory, and language.

Depending on the person, and the severity of the stroke or strokes, vascular dementia may come on gradually or suddenly. Vascular dementia affects different people in different ways and the speed of the progression varies from person to person. Some symptoms may be similar to those of other types of dementia and usually reflect increasing difficulty to perform activities of daily living like eating, dressing, bathing, or grooming.

Behavioral and physical symptoms can come on dramatically or very gradually, but prolonged periods of TIAs or mini-strokes lead to a gradual decline in memory, and a larger stroke can produce profound symptoms immediately. Symptoms of vascular dementia are; memory problems/forgetfulness, unusual mood changes, depression, irritability, hallucinations and delusions, confusion especially at night, personality changes and loss of social skills, dizziness, leg or arm weakness, tremors, rapid or shuffling steps, balance problems, loss of bladder or bowel control.

There is no known cure for vascular dementia, so prevention is important. The best way to prevent vascular dementia is to lower your risk of having a stroke. This means getting high blood pressure under control, avoiding cigarettes, and controlling cholesterol levels and diabetes.

If you or a loved one already has been diagnosed with vascular dementia, you may be able to slow the progression of the disease and possibly reverse some of the symptoms. The most important thing is to minimize your risk of having another stroke and making the dementia worse.

To date there are no approved medications for the treatment of vascular dementia, but doctor’s do prescribe a number of medications used to treat cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer’s disease. These medications appear to help vascular dementia patients also.