This extensive overview of vascular dementia prognosis and progression gives you a better understanding of the development of the disease during the early, middle and late stages.
Vascular dementia is a condition that occurs when a particular part of your brain does not get enough nutrients and blood.
Several factors contribute to vascular dementia prognosis, such as:
- Ruptured blood vessels that cause bleeding
- Blood clots
- The aftermath of a series of small strokes or a major stroke
- Damage to the blood vessels from infections, autoimmune disorders, and atherosclerosis
- Other causes
These usually lead to interruptions or decreased blood flow to the brain.
Brain cells need a constant supply of blood that transports nutrients and oxygen to function correctly and remain healthy.
A network of vessels known as the vascular system delivers blood to the brain. When the system does not work correctly, the blood vessels may become blocked or leak.
When this happens, blood does not reach the brain cells and if this happens continuously, the cells eventually die.
Death of brain cells comes with numerous health complications. Some of them include issues with reasoning, memory, and thinking. The three elements combined are known as cognition.
Vascular dementia is one of the most wide-spread
When these cognitive problems affect a person’s daily life, it is a strong indication that they have vascular dementia.
Diagnosis of vascular dementia is sometimes difficult.
This is because there are no tests that show that an individual has the disease. Doctors will, however, study the symptoms that a person is displaying to confirm whether they have the condition or not.
Thyroid and vitamin deficiencies, side effects of medications, or an array of infections may also cause symptoms.
Always take care of nutrients and proper brain blood flow
Now that you are aware of the likely causes of vascular dementia, let’s take a look at how the disease progresses.
Note that there is still no cure for people with this illness.
Although the disease progresses differently for different people depending on the underlying cause, genetics, age, and overall health, it can be divided into three stages that we will discuss below.
Vascular dementia prognosis in different stages
Stage 1: Early Stage of Vascular Dementia
During the initial stages of vascular dementia, regardless of the prognosis, a person is still able to function independently. In fact, most people may mistake the symptoms of this type of dementia to be those of normal aging.
For example, older people are known to experience slight lapses in memory, such as forgetting where they place things or have challenges finding the right words to complete a sentence.
During this stage, a person may continue working if they are employed or running a business without too much difficulty.
Many maintain a healthy social life and do not need much assistance with their day to day activities.
On average, the stage lasts anywhere from two-four years though it may be more or less for some people.
Some of the early symptoms that an individual may experience include:
- Difficulties with planning,
- Problems with focusing/concentration,
- Slowness of thought,
- Challenges grasping new concepts,
- Behavioral or mood changes,
- Slight issues with language and memory, etc.
Most people will not go to the hospital because the above symptoms are barely noticeable. This is not to say that a person is not aware that things are not the way they were before.
For your information, it is vital to get immediate medical attention when you notice that something is amiss. This is because the symptoms are an indication that there is a presence of brain damage that requires treatment.
During the initial stages, a person with vascular dementia may also be unusually emotional and prone to apathy.
A high percentage of people also have depression and anxiety, especially when they first learn about what is going on in their lives.
When this type of dementia comes about after stroke, a person may experience physical symptoms like problems with speech or vision and weakness of the limbs.
Rehabilitation can help such symptoms to improve or stabilize over time.
Stage 2: Middle Stage Vascular Dementia
With vascular dementia, the disease usually becomes worse after some time, particularly with the lack of proper treatment.
After finding out the possible vascular dementia prognosis and going through the initial stages of the disease, a person then moves on to the next phase of the illness.
At this stage, the symptoms that you experienced during the initial malady start to become more intense.
You might even find that you need more assistance with your day to day life because your level of independence starts to decline.
With most people, getting help from family and friends is still sufficient at this point without the need for professional home care. For some, it may be time to step down from responsible duties at the workplace.
Help is necessary for more daily tasks
Many can handle a few house chores here and there, but may still need some support with a few areas in their lives.
Most of the time, individuals at this stage cannot fully complete jobs. You may find that something as simple as counting from one to ten becomes an uphill task for most.
Most individuals with vascular dementia will start pulling away from social life, knowing that the symptoms are becoming more visible at this stage.
Loved ones or caregivers may discover that a person is no longer interested in doing the things that they used to love. Most of the time, it is not because they no longer have an interest. It is because they fear embarrassment since they cannot enjoy the activities in the same way they did before.
There have been cases of people who experience seasons of decline in cognitive abilities; then a period of stability followed by another step down in regards to cognitive skills, then stability, etc.
This is known as the “stepwise” or “step-like progression” pattern.
Stage 3: Final/Last Stage of Vascular Dementia
When a person who has vascular dementia continues to age, vascular dementia prognosis becomes more severe as the individual waits for their final resting day.
This stage is usually quite severe to the extent that most people cannot survive on their own.
They typically require constant care from expert caregivers.
An individual can either get this at home or move into a facility that specifically takes care of residents who have vascular or other types of dementia.
Unfortunately, a person predominantly experiences negative effects in different areas of their life. This can include:
- Significant issues with communication to the point that a person only uses expressions or words. Some may not be able to communicate anymore verbally.
- Memory becomes worse. An individual may not recall what you have just told them or even recognize people that they love.
- Some people with the illness may become bedridden where they are not able to walk requiring extensive assistance to move from one point to another.
- Feeding and swallowing may also become a big issue for people who are in their last stages of vascular dementia.
- People with the illness tend not to have any judgment or even proper problem-solving skills.
- Most individuals in this final stage cannot be part of community affairs that are outside their care home.
- Many will also require assistance with bathroom issues because they are often incontinent.
- Severe vascular dementia can also cause abnormal reflexes and muscle rigidity. Persons with the illness are also more prone to infections like pneumonia.
When it comes to vascular dementia prognosis, it helps to note that the symptoms of the disease usually get worse over time.
It is something that can happen in sudden steps or gradually every few months or years. Knowing the stages that people go through is vital to understand how to take care of yourself or your loved ones.
Worth noting is that everyone has a unique experience when dealing with the illness.
It is essential to seek medical advice from a professional as soon as you suspect the early symptoms of vascular dementia. The doctor will put you on a treatment regimen that may slow down the progression or prevent it from getting worse.
Researchers also agree that taking good care of the brain and the heart when you have this type of dementia can help slow down progression.
Even though the brain can repair itself to a certain level, the condition can still shorten a person’s lifespan.
This may be even shorter if a person has another heart attack or stroke that causes additional brain damage. The seriousness of this disease affects a person’s prognosis.