Vascular dementia causes problems with mental abilities and a number of other difficulties.

The symptoms can come on 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
  • mood or behavioural changes
  • problems with memory and language (but these aren't as common as they are in people with Alzheimer's disease)

As this point, these problems may be barely noticeable or mistaken for something else, such as depression. But they indicate some brain damage has occurred 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.

The 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.

Getting medical advice

See your GP if you think you have early symptoms of dementia, especially if you're over 65 years of age.

If it's spotted at an early stage, treatment may be able to stop the vascular dementia getting worse, or at least slow it down.

If you're worried about someone else, encourage them to make an appointment with their GP and perhaps 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 and may refer you to a specialist for further tests.

Read more about:

Getting a dementia diagnosis

Tests used to diagnose dementia

Advice if you're worried someone else could have dementia

Page last reviewed: 16/02/2017

Next review due: 16/02/2019