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Insights and News


Treatment for Vascular Dementia

Posted on Thursday, 12 January 2012, in Dementia & Memory

What is vascular dementia?

Symptoms and treatment of vascular dementia

After Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia. As with the other causes of dementia, vascular dementia is irreversible and causes gradual, progressive damage to the brain.

What are the causes of vascular dementia?

The body’s blood vessels are collectively called the vascular system. If the brain’s vascular system is damaged and blood cannot reach individual brain cells, these will eventually die, resulting in what we call vascular dementia.

Risk factors that may cause or accelerate damage to the brain’s vascular system include:

  • Vascular-related problems including strokes, high blood pressure, heart problems, high cholesterol, diabetes (especially type II) and sleep apnoea (where your breathing stops during sleep).
  • Lifestyle factors such as low exercise levels, heavy drinking, smoking, a fatty diet or neglect of medical conditions.
  • Hereditary factors – a family history of strokes or vascular dementia.
  • Ethnic background – Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and African-Caribbean people may be more susceptible.

Strokes and vascular dementia

Single major strokes are a leading cause of vascular dementia – in this case known as ‘single-infarct’ dementia. A series of minor strokes can have the same result – and can be so tiny that the sufferer may not even be aware of them happening. This can lead to ‘multi-infarct’ dementia.

Stroke symptoms include slurred speech, weakness on one side of the body and blurred vision. It’s crucial to consult a doctor if you have them – even if the symptoms go away by themselves – as strokes will otherwise lead to permanent damage.

Small vessel disease-related dementia

This is caused by damage to the tiny bloody vessels that lie deep in the brain. Symptoms appear gradually and may be accompanied by problems with walking.

The importance of getting a professional diagnosis

Diagnosis is essential to discovering whether the cause of the symptoms is curable or not. Also, the sooner the cause is identified – whether vascular dementia or something else – the more effective treatment could be and the slower the subsequent degeneration.

A positive diagnosis will also open the door to support services geared to dementia sufferers and their carers – and allow the individual and their family to plan for the future.

Once referred to a qualified specialist, testing will include cognitive tests, an investigation of lifestyle factors, medical history and family history, and, if necessary, brain scans. It’s also very helpful for a family member to attend to provide verification or additional information about particular symptoms.

What kind of treatments are there for vascular dementia?

While vascular dementia cannot be reversed, there are ways to slow down its advance:

  • Strokes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart problems can all be treated with medication.
  • Lifestyle improvements include stopping smoking, decreasing alcohol intake, changing one’s diet and taking regular exercise.
  • Physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy can help a sufferer live a more normal, active life.

How Clinical Partners can help

Simply call our clinical team in confidence on 0203 326 9160 and we will recommend the most suitable therapist or support group for your individual situation.

Read more about our approach to assessment and diagnosis of Vascular Dementia.


Emilie Head

Emilie Head Business Development and Content Editor BA(Hons), ACMA, MBACP

Emilie has three main roles at Clinical Partners – managing our NHS Partnerships, developing the services our Clinicians offer and writing and editing web content.

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