About the disease
Vascular dementia, also known as multi-infarct dementia, is the most common form of this condition. It develops very gradually and years may pass before it first manifests itself. The symptoms are very mild at first and mostly include problems with short-term memory.
Memory processing can be disrupted if there is an insufficient supply of blood and therefore oxygen and nutrients) to the brain. This can happen if blood vessels that carry the blood to the brain become blocked or narrowed. Such blockages or narrowing can ensue in people who suffer from diabetes or who have had a stroke. People who have high blood pressure or high levels of cholesterol, particularly smokers, are at risk of developing blocked or narrowed blood vessels.
Since the above mentioned risk factors usually build up over time, it is unsurprising that vascular dementia is more common in the elderly. According to WebMD, it accounts for up to 15-20% of all dementia cases in this age category. If diagnosed early on, vascular dementia can be controlled and the symptoms alleviated, which is why regular check-ups are important for people who are over 65 years of age.
- Problems with short-term memory
- Getting lost in well-known surroundings
- Mood swings
- Problems with concentration and memorizing new things
- Urinary incontinence in some cases
- Hallucinations in progressed cases
- Problems with coordination and memory in general
- During a general examination, the doctor will ask the patient about their symptoms and medical history.
- The patient will also be asked if they are having problems with memorizing new things.
- The doctor will ask the patient if they have ever suffered a stroke.
- Imaging tests of blood vessels can show whether they are blocked or narrowed.
- A blood test allows doctors to check the oxygen levels in the patient’s blood.
- Conservative treatment is often sufficient to control the symptoms of vascular dementia.
- High blood pressure medications may be prescribed to reduce the risk of blocked or narrowed blood vessels.
- Exercise and diet (in particular avoiding drinking alcohol and smoking) can significantly improve the blood supply to the brain.