the early symptoms of vascular dementia are often slightly different to those of Alzheimer’s disease and depend on the area of the brain damaged by vascular disease (stroke is a type of vascular disease).
Multi-infarct dementia is a type of vascular dementia caused by a series of small strokes. Each stroke in itself may not be noticeable but can cause lightheadedness, temporary blindness or weakness in the arms or legs. However, a build up of damage in the brain may start to cause symptoms of dementia such as memory impairment and difficulty solving problems.
Vascular dementia may also be caused by a single larger stroke and in this case, symptoms are more obvious eg, speech difficulties or paralysis of one or more limbs together with cognitive impairments.
Very often people with vascular dementia maintain their personality and retain some abilities until the later stages of the disease. This is different for those with Alzheimer’s who are likely to experience a decline in all abilities. This is because vascular dementia can affect distinct parts of the brain whereas Alzheimer’s disease affects the entire brain.
Having said all this, the symptoms may be difficult to differentiate in many cases since it has been suggested that a large proportion of people with Alzheimer’s disease also have cerebrovascular disease, i.e. ‘mixed dementia’. At the moment, there are drugs such as Aricept that are used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease however, there has been limited research into the effectiveness of drug treatments for vascular dementia. However, in the case of a dual diagnosis, Aricept might be useful in treating some of the symptoms associated with the Alzheimer’s disease.