Arteriosclerotic (Vascular) Dementia
What is arteriosclerotic (vascular) dementia?
Arteriosclerotic dementia (also called vascular dementia) is when damaged blood vessels reduce the blood supply to the brain, limiting the amount of oxygen and nutrients needed for the brain to function properly. This destroys brain tissue and results in a loss of mental function. Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia among older people.
Symptoms of vascular dementia may gradually develop and progress after each small stroke. However, in some cases, symptoms may suddenly appear after each stroke. Vascular dementia may sometimes appear to improve for short periods of time, only to continue declining after more silent strokes. Vascular dementia symptoms may include:
- Difficulty performing tasks that used to come easily, such as balancing a checkbook, playing games or learning new information or routines
- Getting lost on familiar routes
- Language problems, such as trouble recalling the names of familiar objects
- Losing interest in things you previously enjoyed
- Misplacing items
- Personality changes and loss of social skills
Vascular dementia is typically caused by a few large strokes or many small strokes. Other conditions that can lead to vascular dementia include:
- High blood pressure
- Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
Unlike individuals with Alzheimer’s disease who usually show a slow, steady decline of function, those with vascular dementia often experience larger declines in thought processes that happen in noticeable downward stages. In some cases, patients may have both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This is called mixed dementia.
The following are several types of vascular dementia, some of which may overlap:
- Binswanger dementia—Several small blood vessels are blocked in people who have severe, poorly controlled high blood pressure and a blood vessel (vascular) disorder that affects blood vessels throughout the body.
- Lacunar disease—This term describes dementia caused by many strokes involving blockages (or infarcts) in small blood vessels.
- Multi-infarct dementia—A type of dementia caused by several strokes, usually involving medium-sized blood vessels.
- Strategic single-infarct dementia—A single area of brain tissue in a crucial area is destroyed
Types of treatment
Your doctor will discuss with you the underlying issues which may be contributing to your vascular dementia. Managing the conditions that are contributing factors to decreased blood flow to your brain is one way to slow down the progression of the disease. Your doctor may recommend certain medications to reduce your cholesterol levels, lower your blood pressure, keep your arteries clear, prevent blood clots and, if you have diabetes, help control your blood sugar.