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Symptoms - Vascular dementia

Vascular dementia causes problems with mental abilities and can lead to other difficulties.

The symptoms can start suddenly or gradually. They tend to get worse over time, although treatment can help slow this down.

Early symptoms

Early signs of vascular dementia can include mild:

  • slowness of thought
  • difficulty with planning
  • trouble with understanding
  • problems with concentration
  • changes to your mood or behaviour
  • problems with memory and language (but these are not as common as they are in people with Alzheimer's disease)

At the beginning, these problems may be barely noticeable. They can also be mistaken for something else, such as depression. But they may be a sign that some brain damage has happened and that treatment is needed.

Later symptoms

The symptoms often continue to get worse over time. This may happen slowly, or in sudden steps every few months or years.

Later symptoms depend on the part of the brain that's affected, but can include:

  • significant slowness of thought
  • feeling disorientated and confused
  • memory loss and difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty finding the right words
  • severe personality changes, such as becoming aggressive
  • depression, mood swings and lack of interest or enthusiasm
  • finding it difficult to walk and keep balance, with frequent falls
  • loss of bladder control (incontinence)
  • increasing difficulty with daily activities

Some people also have some symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

When to see your GP

Talk to your GP if you think you have early symptoms of dementia.

If it's found at an early stage, treatment may be able to stop vascular dementia from getting worse. Or it may help to slow it down.

If you're worried about someone else, encourage them to talk to their GP. You could suggest that you go with them.

Symptoms of dementia can have several causes. Your GP can do some simple checks to try to find out the cause. They may refer you to a specialist for further tests.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 26 August 2021
Next review due: 26 August 2024