After Alzheimer's disease, the second most common cause of dementia is vascular dementia. It is estimated that vascular dementia makes up 15%-20% of dementia cases.
Vascular Dementia Causes
Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia occurs when part of the brain doesn’t get enough blood carrying the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Vascular dementia may be caused by brain damage from strokes, atherosclerosis, endocarditis, or amyloidosis. Structural damage to the brain tissue, either by blocked arteries, blood clots, or bleeding (hemorrhage) causes symptoms of vascular dementia.
Vascular Dementia Symptoms
Vascular dementia may coexist with Alzheimer’s disease and many of the symptoms overlap. However, people with vascular dementia only usually maintain their personality. Common vascular dementia symptoms include the following:
- Problems with short-term memory
- Wandering or getting lost
- Laughing or crying at inappropriate times
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble managing money
- Inability to follow instructions
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
Other symptoms of vascular dementia include nighttime wandering, depression, incontinence, or one-sided body weakness associated with larger strokes.
Vascular Dementia Risk Factors
Vascular dementia almost never occurs without the patient having high blood pressure. Stroke is also a risk factor, 25%-33% of strokes are thought to result in some degree of dementia. Smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease are also vascular dementia risk factors. Men, people between the ages of 60 and 75, and African-Americans have increased risk of vascular dementia.
Vascular Dementia Treatment and Prognosis
There are currently no treatments that can repair the damage of vascular dementia once it has happened. However, behavioral interventions can improve the quality of life for everyone involved. It may be helpful to leave reminder notes, remind the patient what day it is, and keep the patient connected to their loved-ones.
If the condition that initially caused the vascular dementia goes untreated, the prognosis is not good. Eventually, untreated vascular dementia usually ends in death from stroke, heart disease, or infection. Catching vascular dementia early and preventing further damage makes for a better prognosis.