Diagnosing vascular dementia
Confirming a diagnosis of vascular dementia can be difficult, particularly when the condition is in its early stages. This is because many of the symptoms of dementia can also be caused by other conditions.
However, the importance of an early diagnosis will benefit by stopping or slowing down the progression of the condition.
A series of examinations and procedures are done to aid in the diagnosis of vascular dementia including:
- an assessment of symptoms and mental abilities, including how quickly symptoms have developed
- a full medical history, including ahave a history of conditions related to vascular dementia, such as strokes or high blood pressure
- a physical examination
- a review of the medication
- a range of tests, including blood tests, to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as a vitamin B12 deficiency
- brain scans, such as a computerised tomography (CT) scan, which can check for signs of a stroke or brain tumour, or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which can detect any shrinking of the brain
- a heart rhythm test called an electrocardiogram (ECG)
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause. The following medications may be offered:
- antihypertensives, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and beta-blockers, to treat high blood pressure
- statins to treat high cholesterol
- antiplatelets, such as aspirin or clopidogrel, to reduce your risk of blood clots and further strokes
- blood thinners or anticoagulants, such as warfarin, which can also reduce your risk of blood clots and further strokes
- diabetes medication, such as metformin
- antidepressants to treat depression
Acetylcholinesterase inhibitorssuch as donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Reminyl) or rivastigmine (Exelon), which are commonly used to treatAlzheimer’s disease, aren’t designed to treat vascular dementia specifically, but may sometimes be used.
They can be particularly helpful if you have a combination of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.