Vascular Dementia
all information

Vascular Dementia

(Arteriosclerotic Dementia; Atherosclerotic Disease)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

Dementia is the progressive loss of memory and various other mental functions, including the ability to learn, reason, and judge. In vascular dementia, impaired blood flow to the brain cause damage that results in dementia. Often, vascular dementia can occur in conjunction with other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease .

Areas of the Brain Affected by Dementia

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Causes

Vascular dementia can be the result of a major stroke (called post-stroke dementia) or a series of very small strokes (previously called multi-infarct dementia). In post-stroke dementia, the symptoms appear soon after the stroke. In multiple-infarct dementia, the symptoms gradually worsen over time.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The following factors may increase your risk of vascular dementia:

Symptoms

Symptoms of vascular dementia may appear suddenly, or over time. Symptoms may include:

  • Memory problems
  • Confusion, which may worsen at night
  • Difficulty concentrating, planning, or following instructions
  • Trouble communicating
  • Difficulty carrying out daily activities
  • Symptoms of a stroke—These may include sudden weakness, difficulty speaking, and confusion. Call for emergency medical care if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a stroke.
  • Brain abnormalities seen on imaging studies

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Other tests may include:

  • Memory tests
  • CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the body
  • MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

Medications

There are no medications currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat vascular dementia. But depending on your symptoms, certain medications, such as nimodipine , methylphenidate , and donepezil (eg Aricept), may be beneficial in treating some symptoms of vascular dementia.

Behavioral Treatment

There is evidence that engaging in behavioral treatments (eg, increased pleasurable events, problem-solving exercises) may help reduce certain symptoms of vascular dementia.

Prevention

Steps you can take to help prevent vascular dementia include:

  • Do not drink excessively.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Control high blood pressure.
  • Control cholesterol problems.
  • Treat heart disease.
  • Manage diabetes.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly, based on your doctor’s recommendations.

RESOURCES:

Alzheimer's Association
http://www.alz.org/

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Alzheimer Society
http://www.alzheimer.ca/

Canadian Stroke Network
http://www.canadianstrokenetwork.ca/

References:

Bowler JV, Hachinski V. Vascular dementia. In: Gilman S, ed. MedLink Neurology. San Diego, CA: MedLink Corporation. Available at: http://www.medlink.com . Accessed August 10, 2007.

Erkinjuntti T. Vascular cognitive deterioration and stroke. Cerebrovasc. Dis . 2007;24 (Supplement 1):189-94.

Multi-infarct dementia. Medline Plus website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000746.htm .

Vascular dementia. Alzheimer's Association website. Available at: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_vascular_dementia.asp . Accessed June 25, 2007.

Vascular dementia. DynaMed website. Available at: http://dynamed101.ebscohost.com/Detail.aspx?id=115874 . Accessed June 25, 2007.



Last reviewed April 2008 by Rimas Lukas, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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