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Dementia is a decline in a person's mental capacities and intellectual abilities that is great enough to affect the person's normal daily functioning. Vascular dementia is dementia that is caused by disease of the blood vessels of the brain (cerebrovascular disease).
Vascular dementia is caused by cerebrovascular disease that occurs almost entirely in the elderly. People with vascular dementia generally experience a decline in thought processes (cognitive function) that follows specific steps. This decline is often punctuated by small strokes—ruptures of tiny blood vessels in the brain. People experiencing vascular dementia often have problems with memory, abstract thinking, object identification or recognition, speech creation, speech comprehension, and motor activities.
The signs of dementia often begin with impaired memory function. Sometimes a person has difficulty learning new things or remembering new events, and sometimes the person has difficulty recalling events or things that he or she used to know. Other signs of dementia include impairment in other areas of thought processing. Sometimes a person with vascular dementia may have difficulty producing coherent speech, or may have other language impairments, such as problems understanding spoken or written language. The signs of vascular dementia are similar to those of Alzheimer's disease (AD).
Difficulty with motor activities is a problem for some people with vascular dementia. Things that require hand-eye coordination, such as tying shoes or undoing buttons, are examples of motor activities that may be impaired. People with vascular dementia may also have difficulty recognizing familiar objects, or may be unable to name them. Problems organizing things, putting events in sequence, or problems performing other types of abstract thinking may be present.
Some people with vascular dementia exhibit neurological signs that indicate the presence of cerebrovascular disease. They may have weakness of the arms or legs, abnormal reflexes, or abnormalities in the way they walk. Some people also exhibit behavioral disturbances related to the dementia. A person can be violent or aggressive towards others—often his or her caretaker. The person may act impulsively and irritably, and sometimes scream.
Vascular dementia is thought to be caused by small strokes that interfere with blood flow to the brain. Usually, vascular dementia is caused by many small strokes over time, rather than one large stroke. Sometimes this is referred to as multi-infarct dementia (MID). If the vascular dementia is caused by one large stroke, or develops in less than three months, then it is called "acute onset vascular dementia." Acute onset vascular dementia is rare.
Author Info: Tish Davidson A.M., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, 2003This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
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