Vascular dementia occurs when small blood clots prevent oxygen from reaching brain tissue, causing a stroke or mini-stroke, sometimes known as Transient Ischaemic Attack or TIA. Damage to the blood supply can also be caused by blocked arteries or bursting of blood vessels in the brain (haemorrhage).
It is the second most common type of dementia, accounting for approximately 17 – 30% of all cases.
The mini strokes that cause vascular dementia are often so slight that they cause no immediate symptoms, or they may cause some temporary confusion. However, each stroke destroys a small area of cells in the brain by cutting off its blood supply and the cumulative effect of a number of mini strokes is often sufficient to cause vascular dementia.
- Cognitive decline is likely to have a sudden onset and symptoms tend to progress in a series of steps following each attack, suggesting that small strokes have been occurring, followed by a plateau of their condition
- Symptoms depend on which area of the brain has been affected. Language, reading, writing and communication can be affected. Consequently, some cognitive abilities may be relatively unaffected
- May include severe depression, mood swings and periods of confusion
Managing vascular dementia
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, having regular health checks, and giving appropriate interventions, which may include medication, to control underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or vascular problems may prevent dementia from getting worse. Careful advice around diet, activity levels, stopping smoking and appropriate levels of alcohol consumption should be provided.