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What is Vascular Dementia?


If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with Vascular dementia, then you may be looking to find out more about the condition and how to manage the symptoms. In this blog we outline the basics.

 

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer's disease and it affects around 180,000 people in the UK.

 

Dependent on the type of dementia diagnosed and area of the brain that has been damaged, symptoms may affect memory, thought process, behaviour, emotions, movement and can interfere with everyday functions.

 

Vascular dementia can start suddenly or develop over time and is due to damage caused by interruption in the blood flow to the brain.  Blockages or damaged blood vessels can reduce the flow of blood circulating to the brain and deprive it of necessary oxygen and nutrients.

 

Some people may be diagnosed with a mixed dementia which is a combination of both Vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The risk of developing Vascular dementia also increases with age, however it is a type that is common within people with young onset dementia, too. 

 

What are the symptoms of Vascular dementia?

 

Vascular dementia follows a more stepped progression than Alzheimer’s disease, with Vascular dementia symptoms repeatedly changing and plateauing, rather than following a steady trajectory.


It can, like Alzheimer’s disease, cause difficulties with memory, although this may not be the initial symptom, so people may be more aware of their condition. It can also cause problems with language and communication.  Additionally, depending on the area of the brain affected, the person may develop problems with the following:

 

  • Attention and focus

  • Planning

  • Processing speed

  • Mood changes including depression and anxiety

  • Personality & behavioural changes

  • Increased disorientation

  • Balance and mobility

  • Physical weakness, sometimes one-sided, similar to stroke symptoms

  • Incontinence

  • Delusions and occasionally hallucinations

 

Managing the symptoms of Vascular dementia

 

Due to the nature of Vascular dementia, the key is to minimise risk of future or further strokes through managing heart health. The GP can support a person to manage blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars and in some cases start blood thinning medication to prevent risk of clots.

 

Unlike other forms of dementia, people diagnosed with Vascular dementia are less likely to be prescribed dementia-specific medication as they are not shown to demonstrate the same benefits. If mixed dementia is diagnosed, then dementia medication may be tried. As mentioned above, people can be prescribed medication to prevent blood clots. Everyone should have a regular medication review with their GP to ensure that the medication is helpful and that side effects are minimised.

 

Following a healthy diet, cutting back on alcohol and stopping smoking as well as

staying strong and active is vital. Physiotherapists can help with exercise suggestions and mobility aids, if required, and it is also important to stay cognitively and mentally stimulated and remain as independent as possible for as long as possible.

 

Getting support with Vascular dementia

 

Both the person with the Vascular dementia diagnosis and their carers and loved ones should have access to as much support as possible. At Sage House, a named Wayfinder can provide an opportunity to ask questions about the diagnosis to provide better understanding and management of symptoms, as well as both practical and emotional support and advice. There are also lots of strategies and tips available to support with different aspects of dementia.

 

Contact Sage House and book an appointment with a Wayfinder today. Call us on 01243 888691 info@dementiasupport.org.uk www.dementiasupport.org.uk

 

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