What is Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia is a degenerative cerebrovascular disease that leads to a progressive decline in memory and cognitive functioning. It occurs when the blood supply carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain is interrupted by a blocked or diseased vascular system. Vascular dementia generally affects people between the ages of 60 and 75, and affects more men than women.
The most common type of vascular dementia is multi-infarct dementia (MID), which is caused by a series of small strokes, or “mini-strokes,” that often go unnoticed and cause damage to the cortex of the brain—the area associated with learning, memory, and language. These mini-strokes are sometimes referred to as transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), which result in only temporary, partial blockages of blood supply and brief impairments in consciousness or sight. Over time, however, the damage caused to brain tissue interferes with basic cognitive functions and disrupts everyday functioning.
Multi-infarct dementia causes loss of functioning to specific areas of the brain, impairing some neurological and mental functions and not others. When vascular dementia occurs with other types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, it is known as “mixed dementia.”
Signs and symptoms of vascular dementia
Signs and symptoms are varied and usually reflect increasing difficulty to perform everyday activities, such as eating, dressing, shopping, etc. Possible signs and symptoms of vascular dementia include:
|Signs and Symptoms of Vascular Dementia|
- Memory problems; forgetfulness
- Leg or arm weakness
- Lack of concentration
- Moving with rapid, shuffling steps
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Slurred speech
- Language problems
- Abnormal behavior
- Wandering or getting lost in familiar surroundings
- Laughing or crying inappropriately
- Difficulty following instructions
- Problems handling money
Onset can be gradual or dramatic. It appears that a prolonged period of TIAs leads to a gradual decline in memory, whereas a stroke can produce profound symptoms immediately. Regardless of the rate of appearance, vascular dementia typically progresses in a stepwise fashion, where lapses in memory and reasoning abilities are followed by periods of stability, only to give way to further decline.
Brief episodes of numbness and temporary loss of vision, speech, or strength may indicate a mini-stroke (TIA), or be a warning sign of a stroke. If you ever experience these symptoms it is advisable to be proactive and seek medical help.
Causes of vascular dementia
Vascular dementia can be caused in several different ways. Most commonly there is a blockage of small blood vessels somewhere in the vast system of arteries that feeds the brain and enters through the base of the skull. Blockages may be caused by plaque build up on the inside of the artery wall, or by blood clots which have broken loose and clogged a tributary further downstream. Clots can form as a result of abnormal heart rhythms, or other heart abnormalities. Also, a weak patch on an artery wall can balloon outward and form an aneurysm, which can burst and deprive the brain cells of oxygen.
The risk factors associated with vascular dementia, therefore, are those associated with cardiovascular disease. These include: high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, a family history of heart problems, disease in arteries elsewhere in the body, and heart rhythm abnormalities. Lifestyle factors like being overweight or smoking can contribute to the risk, as well.
It is estimated that about 50 percent of the cases of vascular dementia result from hypertension, or high blood pressure. Rarer causes of vascular dementia are associated with auto-immune inflammatory diseases of the arteries such as Lupus and Temporal Arteritis, which are treatable with drugs that suppress the immune system
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Post Edited (Howlyncat) : 11/15/2008 4:51:07 PM (GMT-7)