Vascular Dementia – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Vascular dementia

Dementia is a loss of memory and orientation. As life expectancy increases, so does the risk of developing dementia. There are different forms of dementia, the most common form is Alzheimer’s dementia. About 20 percent of all dementia patients suffer from vascular dementia . Vascular means that the cause of this dementia is a circulatory disorder in the brain.

What is vascular dementia?

Dementia is the term for a decline in the mind. Vascular is a medical term for any disease affecting the blood vessels.

Vascular dementia is characterized by a steady reduction in a person’s mental and, later, motor skills.

As a result, memory and the processing of recorded stimuli, such as viewing and evaluating an image, are restricted or eliminated.


The cause of vascular dementia is a reduction in cerebral blood flow. The greatest risk factor for developing vascular dementia is age. The older those affected get, the higher the risk of developing vascular dementia.Another factor that favors the development is arteriosclerosis (calcification and hardening of the blood vessels) in the brain. The main causes of arteriosclerosis are poorly controlled diabetes mellitus , lipid metabolism disorders and nicotine .

Being overweight is also a risk factor for the development of arteriosclerosis. Brain tissue dies as a result of small or large cerebral infarctions and the function is restricted or eliminated. The severity of the disorder depends on the location of the damage caused by the cerebral infarction.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Vascular dementia does not come on suddenly. Overall, the symptoms gradually increase. It can happen that a patient stays in one condition for months or years and then seems to improve. This short up is then followed by an abrupt down again. Signs of vascular dementia occur in a combination.

Patients appear confused to bystanders . They can only articulate themselves vaguely and look for terms with which they can express simple facts. They are also finding it increasingly difficult to cope with everyday life. They can no longer operate technical devices such as a television. They are unable to decide for or against anything.

For example, a choice of lunch can overwhelm them. The sense of direction is also disturbed . People with vascular dementia sometimes no longer know where they are. The complaints described have a direct impact on personality. Anger and aggressiveness set in as a consequence in those affected.

Sudden inner restlessness and constant mood swings are part of everyday life. They no longer understand their environment. The damage in the brain area sometimes also causes movement disorders to occur. Those affected walk unsteadily and fall easily. incontinence occurs. Neurological deficits such as problems with vision set in.

Diagnosis & History

Only a doctor can diagnose vascular dementia . This requires a detailed anamnesis (patient survey). Questioning relatives is also important for the diagnosis. The main criteria include a memory disorder, a circulatory disorder and high blood pressure.

A reliable diagnosis can be made using magnetic resonance computer tomography ( MRI ), since the damaged brain structures can be shown well here. Before the diagnosis of vascular dementia is made, it is important to rule out other similar diseases (Alzheimer’s dementia or Parkinson ‘s disease ).

The course of vascular dementia is characterized by a decline in short-term memory. In the further course, the memory also decreases significantly. Later, memories from the long-term memory, as well as motor, language and social skills are no longer possible. Typical of vascular dementia is the early onset of gait disorders and coordination disorders. The character of the patient only changes later in the course of the disease.

At this point in time, there are also disturbances of perception and disorientation. Some sufferers experience epileptic seizures . Behavior changes. Patients become apathetic, suffer from eating disorders , sleep disorders , and anxiety . Hallucinations and depression are also common .


If vascular dementia is not recognized immediately, the condition of the person with dementia deteriorates rapidly: self-neglect sets in, which affects household chores, personal hygiene and nutrition. The orientation to time and place is also increasingly dwindling, which can lead to serious accidents if the person concerned moves freely unaccompanied.

The day and night rhythm gets out of balance and there is a significant lack of sleep. In general, the phases in which the demented person is asleep or awake are no longer tied to the time of day. A deterioration in memory performance occurs and the memory contents are replaced by delusional reports of experiences that have an inappropriate effect on the environment.

Symptoms of dizziness also increase in the absence of treatment and the risk of suicide increases for those affected. In the late stages, dementia patients no longer even remember familiar people and neurological deficits occur. Food intake and excretion are permanently disturbed, which seriously affects physical health.

There are also urinary tract diseases, swallowing disorders and being confined to bed. If the affected person is treated, aspirations often occur when feeding. The smallest parts of food get into the lungs and damage them. The tissue is damaged and even pneumonia is not uncommon. If vomit is aspirated, the bronchial mucosa in particular is severely attacked.

When should you go to the doctor?

If the affected person or close relatives notice losses and irregularities in memory over a longer period of time, the complaints should be clarified. Sleep disorders, anxiety and personality changes are understood as warning signs in the medical field. To clarify the cause, a doctor’s visit is necessary so that various tests can be carried out. Disorders of orientation, a loss of factual knowledge of the personal area as well as changes in attention should be discussed with a doctor. Conspicuous eating behavior, hallucinations or peculiarities of behavior should also be clarified.

An epileptic seizure disorder must always be examined more closely by a doctor after each suffered seizure. High blood pressure, loss of zest for life and withdrawal from social life are considered worrying. If the willingness to conflict increases, if appointments are forgotten or if the person concerned reproduces objectively false memories, a doctor must be consulted. Unsteady gait, dizziness, coordination disorders and abnormalities in speech are other complaints that require investigating the causes.

Depressive or aggressive states, lethargy, and apathy also need further investigation. A doctor’s visit is necessary for general functional disorders, problems with swallowing and changes in breathing activity. If the general risk of accidents increases and the person concerned’s normal personal hygiene dwindles, members of the social environment should point out the need to see a doctor.

Treatment & Therapy

Treatment of vascular dementia should start early. Drug, physiotherapeutic and psychological treatment are available here. To prevent further damage to the blood vessels in the brain, the doctor will prescribe drugs to thin the blood and thus improve its flow properties.

Furthermore, antihypertensive drugs should be carefully prescribed to protect the blood vessels in the brain. In this case, a slow adjustment of the dosage is necessary, since otherwise the blood pressure would be lowered too quickly, and reduced blood flow to the brain would be the result. The blood sugar must be optimally adjusted. In the later stages, depending on the findings and condition of the patient , psychotropic drugs such as antidepressants and [[neuroleptics6] are required.

In order to maintain the patient’s mobility for a long time and to improve coordination, physiotherapy is important. Here it is possible to use certain techniques to work out compensation for the disorders that have arisen as a result of vascular dementia. Furthermore, psychotherapeutic treatment of the person concerned is recommended in order to promote independence, orientation and personal responsibility.


The prophylaxis of vascular dementia consists in a healthy lifestyle, the main goal of which is to avoid vascular-damaging influences. This includes optimal blood sugar control, a balanced low-fat diet, sufficient exercise and not nicotine. Regular checks of blood values ​​give the doctor the opportunity to identify risk factors for vascular dementia at an early stage and to combat them with dietary or medicinal measures. A normal weight should also be aimed for. Various studies have proven the vascular protective effect of red wine in small quantities.


In the follow-up of vascular dementia, the underlying disease of the patient must be taken into account. These are examined at regular intervals. So if blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, cardiac arrhythmia or excessively high blood lipid levels are detected, these are treated as part of the therapy. During follow-up care, the course of the treated underlying disease of the patient with vascular dementia is regularly examined.

In addition, the doctor will work to ensure that the patient lives a healthy life and changes unhealthy behaviors: lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking. If these risk factors are identified and corrected in good time during follow-up care, the course of vascular dementia can be slowed down. The brain performance disorders then no longer progress rapidly.

In pure vascular dementia, brain cells have actually died. Rehabilitative aftercare measures can also be helpful here. This makes it possible for healthy nerve cells to take over the tasks of the dead nerve cells. Occupational therapy, speech therapy and physiotherapy are used for this purpose as part of aftercare.

Finally, the scheduled long-term administration of medication is monitored by follow-up examinations, the effectiveness is diagnosed and the side effects are assessed. For example, the use of blood-thinning medication should be monitored during aftercare.

You can do that yourself

People suffering from vascular dementia need support in everyday life. It is the duty of the relatives to care for the sick person and to give them attention and care.

The first thing to do is gather the most important information about the disease. Literature on the subject and the exchange with other sufferers are essential to understand the condition. People living with dementia need consistency and habit. The daily routine must be clearly regulated and major deviations should be avoided at all costs. At the same time, the patient’s independence must be encouraged. For example, many patients are still able to cook or look after themselves. Relatives should also plan sufficient rest periods for themselves. The outpatient nursing service takes over important tasks and ensures the medical care of the patient.

The patient himself can contribute to a harmonious coexistence by also finding out about the disease and supporting the treatment through sport, a healthy diet and cognitive training. Brain jogging or simple board games, for example, have proven effective in promoting brain activity and counteracting the progression of vascular dementia.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.