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Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is an umbrella term that describes impairments in cognitive function caused by problems in blood vessels that feed the brain.

In some cases, a blood vessel may be completely blocked, causing a stroke.  Not all strokes cause vascular dementia.  It depends on the severity of the stroke, where the stroke occurred and the portion of the brain that’s affected.  Vascular dementia also can occur when blood vessels in the brain narrow, reducing the amount of blood flow to those sections of the brain.

The prevalence of vascular dementia ranges from 1 to 4 percent in people over the age of 65.  Because few treatments are available for vascular dementia, prevention is crucial.

Vascular dementia symptoms can vary, depending on the portion of the brain that’s affected.  People with vascular dementia can experience:

  • Confusion and agitation
  • Problems with memory
  • Unsteady gait
  • Urinary frequency, urgency or incontinence
  • Night wandering
  • Depression
  • A decline in the ability to organize thoughts or actions
  • Difficulty planning ahead
  • Trouble communicating details sequentially
  • Memory loss
  • Poor attention and concentration

Vascular dementia symptoms often begin suddenly and may worsen in a stepwise fashion, following a series of strokes or ministrokes.  But some forms of vascular dementia develop gradually and can easily be confused with Alzheimer’s disease.

Adding to the confusion, Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia often occur together.  In fact, some scientists believe that it’s more common for these two disorders to occur together than apart.


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