The brain has a rich and intricate network of blood vessels that is vulnerable to damage due to inadequate blood blow or rupture of blood vessels. When the brain does not get enough blood blow due to blockage or rupture of arterial blood supply, it is called a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or a “stroke.”
Thinking problems that begin after multiple strokes, which also impair ability to carry out everyday functioning is referred to as “Vascular Dementia.” The term “vascular cognitive impairment (VCI)” may be used instead of “vascular dementia” by doctors because they feel it better expresses the concept that vascular thinking changes can range from mild to severe. Vascular dementia is widely considered the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, accounting for 20 to 30 percent of cases.
In vascular dementia, changes in thinking skills occurs suddenly following major blood vessel strokes. Thinking problems also may begin as mild changes that worsen gradually due to multiple minor strokes. Because a stroke can affect virtually any part of the brain, vascular dementia is very different from person to person. Unlike other dementias, vascular dementia may improve over time after initial stroke, although individuals often hit a plateau and do not always return to their normal levels of functioning.
Vascular brain changes often coexist with other types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s Dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. This is referred to as “vascular contributions” to the primary dementia. Vascular changes may interact with other primary dementias to increase thinking problems.