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How To Diagnose Alzheimer’s Vs Vascular Dementia

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Vascular Dementia

What is vascular dementia?

Symptoms of vascular dementia can appear suddenly and may progress slowly over time. People with vascular dementia may experience:

  • Difficulty performing tasks that used to be easy, such as paying bills
  • Trouble following instructions or learning new information and routines
  • Forgetting current or past events
  • Misplacing items
  • Getting lost on familiar routes
  • Problems with language, such as finding the right word or using the wrong word
  • Changes in sleep patterns

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Caring For Someone With Vascular Dementia Vs Alzheimers

Caring for a person showing signs of dementia is a touchy subject. It can be a challenge because it requires you to completely change your approach to interactions. As a person starts to exhibit signs of Alzheimers or vascular dementia, you need to start approaching your interactions step-by-step.

There is no verified treatment for dementia. Science has proven time and again that a heart-healthy diet and exercise are a great way to combat the symptoms of dementia. Diet and exercise have also shown the ability to slow the detrimental effects of these diseases, although its not a cure.

During the early and middle stages of vascular dementia or Alzheimers, caring for a loved one is something that you can do with relative ease. If you are taking care of a loved one suffering from one of these diseases, creating designated areas and schedules is a great way to stay on track with your loved one. Add labels to areas of the house that are used for those items. A key drawer that holds the car keys can help your loved one associate where they are with what they find. That way, should they need to find an item like reading glasses, they are likely to look in the drawer where you keep all the glasses. Even if they should have an incident in the time it takes to look for what they need, the labels could remind them of what they originally intended to do.

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How Long Can Person With Vascular Dementia Care For Themselves

A person with vascular dementia will need help with at least some aspects of daily function, such as managing medications, paying bills or preparing food. You or your family member with vascular dementia may be able to do many things for themselves although, it may not be safe for them to live alone, depending on what abilities are affected. For some people with vascular dementia, more specialized care may be required from facilities that care specifically for people with dementia.

The Cause Of Vascular Dementia

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Vascular dementia is normally caused by blood flow being restricted from the brain. Were talking about things like strokes, transient ischemic attack , or heart attacks. They can cause massive disruptions in the normal functions of the human body.

It is estimated that 10-20% of all Dementia cases are diagnosed as vascular dementia, making it the second most common form of dementia. About 1%-4% of these cases layover into Alzheimers too.

Though vascular dementia is a common type of Dementia, it cant always be classified into the general early stages, middle stages, or late stages. It really comes down to the person and the severity of the event that triggered it in the first place. Some cases result in people closer to early signs of Alzheimers. Others find themselves thrust towards the middle or late stages.

The common risk factors associated with vascular dementia are diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, or peripheral artery disease. Vascular dementia can also come in a variety of forms like mixed dementia. Sometimes patients show signs of both vascular dementia and Alzheimers.

Women are also more susceptible to getting Alzheimers. The fact that women live longer means they are more likely to suffer from dementia.

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The Differences Between Vascular Dementia Vs Alzheimers

These diseases have the overall same effect, but you start to see major differences once you start to understand how they happen. One of the major differences with vascular dementia and Alzheimers is the fashion they show themselves.

Vascular dementia tends to almost come and go with different variations of severity. One minute your loved one could be the old them and the next could see episodes of Dementia the likes of which you have never seen. They call the fashion in which vascular dementia displays itself as a step-like progression. In other words, it comes and goes.

On the other hand, we have Alzheimers. Though the outcome is generally the same, the progression of Alzheimers is more of a downward slope. There arent really any moments of bouncing in and out of symptoms. Instead, it tends to simply get worse as the days go on. Although this process tends to be more gradual, you wont see the bounce backs like you would with vascular dementia.

Is It Alzheimers Or Vascular Dementia

There are several key differences when comparing the two:

  • The cause of Alzheimers disease is as yet not known. It usually progresses slowly, with balance and coordination problems occurring within the later stages of the disease.
  • Vascular dementia is triggered by a stroke or TIA, and is linked to other vascular problems . The advancement of this type of dementia takes place in specific stages, with balance and coordination problems in the earliest stage.

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How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed

Doctors use several methods and tools to help determine if a person with thinking or memory problems has Alzheimers disease. To diagnose Alzheimers, doctors may:

  • Ask the person experiencing symptoms, as well as a family member or friend, questions about overall health, use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, diet, past medical problems, ability to carry out daily activities, and changes in behavior and personality.
  • Administer a psychiatric evaluation to determine if depression or another mental health condition is causing or contributing to a person’s symptoms.
  • Conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language.
  • Order blood, urine, and other standard medical tests that can help identify other possible causes of the problem.
  • Perform brain scans, such as computed tomography , magnetic resonance imaging , or positron emission tomography , to support an Alzheimers diagnosis or rule out other possible causes for symptoms.

Doctors may want to repeat these tests to help best determine how the persons memory and other cognitive functions are changing over time. The tests can also help diagnose other causes of memory problems, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinsons disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, or another type of dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible.

People with memory problems should return to the doctor every six to 12 months.

Key Points About Vascular Dementia

Finding dementia support after a diagnosis
  • Vascular dementia is a disorder characterized by damaged brain tissue due to a lack of blood flow. Causes can include blood clots, ruptured blood vessels, or narrowing or hardening of blood vessels that supply the brain.
  • Symptoms can include problems with memory and concentration, confusion, changes in personality and behavior, loss of speech and language skills, and sometimes physical symptoms such as weakness or tremors.
  • Vascular dementia tends to progress over time. Treatments can’t cure the disease, but lifestyle changes and medicines to treat underlying causes might help slow its progress.
  • Surgical procedures to improve blood flow to the brain can also be helpful. Other medicines might slow the progression of dementia or help with some of the symptoms it can cause.
  • A person with vascular dementia may eventually need full-time nursing care or to stay in a long-term care facility.

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What Is Alzheimers Disease

Dementia is the term applied to a group of symptoms that negatively impact memory, but Alzheimers is a specific progressive disease of the brain that slowly causes impairment in memory and cognitive function. The exact cause is unknown, and no cure is available.

Although younger people can and do get Alzheimers, the symptoms generally begin after age 65.

Frontotemporal Dementia With Parkinsonism

One form of familial FTD, also known as frontotemporal dementia with Parkinsonism-17 , is caused by genetic changes in the gene for tau protein, located on chromosome 17. No other risk factors for this condition are known.

FTDP-17 is rare and accounts for only three per cent of all cases of dementia. Symptoms progressively get worse over time and usually appear between the ages of 40 and 60. The condition affects both thinking and behavioural skills and movements such as rigidity, lack of facial expression and problems with balance .

It can be distressing to be told that you have a genetic disorder or are at risk of having one. Genetic counselling provides the person and their family with information about a genetic disorder and its likely impact on their lives. This can assist a person with FTDP-17 to make informed medical and personal decisions about how to manage their condition and the challenges it presents to their health and wellbeing. Prenatal genetic counselling is also available for parents to help them decide about a pregnancy that may be at risk of FTDP-17.

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Types Of Vascular Dementia

Strategic infarct dementia

One single large stroke can sometimes cause vascular dementia, depending on the size and location of the stroke.

Strategic infarct dementia is characterised by the sudden onset of changes in thinking skills or behaviour. Symptoms vary depending on the location of the stroke and what brain functions it affected.

Provided no further strokes occur, the persons symptoms may remain stable or even improve over time. However, if there is other vascular disease also affecting the brain or additional strokes occur, symptoms may worsen.

Multi-infarct dementia

Multi-infarct dementia is caused by multiple strokes. It is associated with disease of the brains large blood vessels. Often the person does not notice symptoms when the strokes occur.

Over time, as more strokes occur, more damage is done to the brain, with reasoning and thinking skills affected to the point that a vascular dementia diagnosis is made.

Depending on the location of the brain damage, other symptoms can include depression and mood swings. After each new stroke, symptoms can worsen, then stabilise for a while.

Subcortical vascular dementia

Subcortical vascular dementia is associated with disease in the small blood vessels deep within the brain and damage to subcortical areas of the brain. It can be caused by untreated high blood pressure or diabetes leading to vascular disease.

Symptoms often include:

  • a neurological examination
  • neuropsychological tests
  • brain imaging
  • carotid ultrasound .

Treatments For Vascular Dementia

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There’s currently no cure for vascular dementia and there’s no way to reverse any loss of brain cells that happened before the condition was diagnosed.

But treatment can sometimes help slow down vascular dementia.

Treatment aims to tackle the underlying cause, which may reduce the speed at which brain cells are lost.

This will often involve:

Other treatments, including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dementia activities and psychological therapies, can help reduce the impact of any existing problems.

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Frontotemporal Dementia Versus Psychiatric Disorders

When behavioral symptoms predominate, people with FTD who become ill in mid-life may be confused with patients who have late life depression. When the onset is in younger persons, the FTD may be confused with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Repetitive compulsive behaviors are very common in bvFTD, and some patients may initially be given the diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Since the history and exam of a person with a psychiatric disorder and a person with FTD may look very similar, neuropsychological testing and a brain image may help clarify the picture. MRI can help rule out other diseases and support a diagnosis of FTD.

Causes Of Vascular Dementia

There are many things that increase a persons chances of developing vascular dementia. For example their age, other health conditions and lifestyle factors.

These are called risk factors and it is possible to avoid some of them.

The biggest risk factor for vascular dementia is age and the risk increases once a person gets to 65.

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Living With Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is a progressive disease that has no cure, but the rate at which the disease progresses can vary. Some people with vascular dementia may eventually need a high level of care due to the loss of mental and physical abilities. Family members may be able to care for a person with vascular dementia early on. But if the disease progresses, the person may need more specialized care.

Respite programs, adult daycare programs, and other resources can help the caregiver get some time away from the demands of caring for a loved one with vascular dementia.

Long-term care facilities that specialize in the care of people with dementias, Alzheimer’s, and other related conditions are often available if a person affected by vascular dementia can no longer be cared for at home. Your healthcare provider can recommend caregiver resources.

What Is Vascular Dementia

Audrey and Alan’s story of living with vascular dementia – Alzheimer’s Society

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia . Everyone experiences it differently. Symptoms vary depending on the person, the cause and the areas of the brain that are affected.

  • You are here: What is vascular dementia?
  • The most common symptoms of vascular dementia during the early stages are:

    • problems with planning or organising, making decisions or solving problems
    • difficulties following a series of steps
    • slower speed of thought
    • problems concentrating, including short periods of sudden confusion.

    A person in the early stages may also have difficulties with their memory and their language.

    Explaining your symptoms to a GP

    Print and complete our symptoms checklist. Take it with you when you visit your GP to help describe your symptoms

    Symptoms may develop quickly or more gradually. As vascular dementia progresses, the symptoms get worse and cause problems with everyday living.

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    How Is Vascular Dementia Linked To Stroke

    When you have a stroke, the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off, killing brain cells. The damage from a stroke can cause problems with memory and thinking . For many people, these problems improve over time. If the problems dont improve or get worse this may be a sign of vascular dementia.

    Multiple small strokes or silent strokesAnother cause of vascular dementia is when many small strokes happen, creating lots of small areas of damage in your brain. Often, these strokes can be so small that you do not know you are having them. These are known as silent strokes.

    Symptoms of vascular dementia can appear suddenly if they are caused by a single stroke, or if they are caused by silent strokes they may appear gradually over time. Vascular dementia sometimes develops in steps, so that symptoms will stay the same for a while and then suddenly get worse. These steps are usually due to new strokes.

    How Is Vascular Dementia Treated

    Vascular dementia can’t be cured. The main goal is to treat the underlying conditions that affect the blood flow to the brain. This can help cut the risk of further damage to brain tissue.

    Such treatments may include:

    • Medicines to manage blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, diabetes, and problems with blood clotting
    • Lifestyle changes, such as following a healthy diet, getting physical activity, quitting smoking, and quitting or decreasing alcohol consumption
    • Procedures to improve blood flow to the brain, such as carotid endarterectomy, angioplasty, and stenting the carotid arteries are located in the neck and provide blood flow from the heart to the brain
    • Medicines, such as cholinesterase inhibitors to treat the symptoms of dementia or antidepressants to help with depression or other symptoms

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    What Abilities Are Affected

    Forgetfulness and problems with reasoning or problem solving are often the most noticeable change in someone with vascular dementia but other abilities can be impaired, too, including thinking speed, communication skills, spatial skills , or attention and concentration. The size and location of damaged brain areas determine which abilities are affected. If additional strokes occur or problems with reduced blood flow continue, more and more brain tissue is damaged and more abilities are affected.

    Frontotemporal Dementia Vs Alzheimer’s

    Difference Between Dementia and Vascular Dementia

    Frontotemporal dementia is caused by progressive loss of nerve cells in the front and side areas of the brain. This is the area behind your forehead and behind your ears. These areas are responsible for decision making, behavior, emotion, and language. Damage to nerve cells will cause deterioration in these areas.

    The main symptoms of frontotemporal dementia are changes in personality and behavior, and trouble with language ability. This might be accompanied with a hard time writing and comprehension problems.

    Frontotemporal dementia was formerly referred to as Picks Disease. Dr. Arnold Pick first made notes about a patient with language skills problems back in 1892. Today, it might also be referred to as frontotemporal degeneration.

    Onset of frontotemporal dementia is usually around 60 years of age. It is less common than Alzheimers in seniors over 65 years of age. However, in the 45-65 age range, it is just as common as Younger-Onset Alzheimers.

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