Vascular dementia is second to Alzheimer's that is the most common reason for dementia affecting the population of the world. This type of dementia usually has been observed to set in, after a person has been affected by a stroke. Genetics and inheritance also plays a role in the onset of this condition. The primary reason for this condition is a chronic, reduced blood flow to the brain. Sometimes, one may also observe that a person shows the symptoms even though he/she has not been affected by a major stroke. However, one must remember that some strokes are completely asymptomatic and may go by unnoticed. Thus, a series of these strokes can lead to the development of this problem.
What is Vascular Dementia?
There are various types of dementia of which this is one. It is a disorder wherein there is a progressive loss of memory and other cognitive abilities. This happens when the oxygen supply to the brain falls drastically. The lack of oxygen is due cerebrovascular accident, more commonly known as a stroke. A blocked or compromised vascular system that supplies blood to the brain leads to this condition. The brain cells in this condition when deprived of oxygen, even for a very short period of time, die causing damage to various intellectual abilities. This is also known as multi-infarct dementia as a series of small strokes is usually responsible for this disorder.
The vascular dementia phases are divided according to the earliest symptoms leading to a progressive decline in various motor and cognitive skills. There is no distinct demarcation in the stages as the symptoms observed in the early stages increase in terms of severity. They are as follows:
Early Stages and Middle Stages
The symptoms are similar to those observed in other forms. Just as the other forms, there are certain early stage symptoms which keep aggravating as the disease progresses.
Confusion is one of the earliest symptoms. The individual has difficulties in remembering the details of a given piece of information, sometimes there is a confusion while performing daily chores, disorientation and lack of concentration is also observed.
Agitation is observed in people experiencing this condition. This agitation may increase over a period of time.
Speech problems are often observed in the early stages, wherein the person has difficulties in speaking during a conversation and may also slur quite often.
Late Stage or End Stage
As mentioned earlier, a distinct division of these stages is not possible. There are a few symptoms which become severe and some others which develop towards the end. The confusion and agitation progresses into amnesia, apathy, and severe depression, and aggression. Amongst the other end stage symptoms are the following:
Visual disturbance is observed in later stages where a person may have problems in seeing clearly.
Incontinence is sometimes seen in the early stages, however, in the end stage, this leads to complete loss of bladder control.
Motor disability is usually observed in walking. An individual may lose a control of their muscles and have difficulty in walking. Sometimes, it so happens that due to the trouble walking and progressive memory loss, a person may even forget to how to walk by the end stage.
Loss of Speech is observed quite often in the late stage, where a person cannot frame a sentence and gradually stops speaking.
To confirm dementia, there is a dementia test that is conducted on individuals by doctors which may involve a few activities and questionnaires.
Vascular Dementia Prognosis
The disease progression varies in individuals and often depends on the age of the affected person as well. The outcome mostly depends on the risk factors and mechanism of the disease. There is no specific form of vascular dementia treatment and therefore disease management varies according to the person affected by this disease. Life expectancy for this condition again varies. A study has shown that in males the life expectancy is reduced by 50%. The mortality rate is higher than Alzheimer's disease and it has a five year survival rate.
These were the stages of vascular dementia as observed in individuals, which may vary from person to person. There is no treatment to reverse the condition, management of risk factors and symptomatic treatment may increase the life expectancy.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.