Symptoms of vascular dementia and its early warning signs 

Early warning signs of vascular dementia can be hard to spot, but if they are identified early, treatment may help slow or halt the progression of the condition.

Early signs

Possible early signs of vascular dementia can include slight:

  • slowness of thought
  • difficulty with planning
  • trouble with language
  • problems with attention and concentration
  • mood or behavioural changes

This early stage is known as vascular cognitive impairment, and it may be barely noticeable or mistaken for something else, such as depression.

However, these symptoms can indicate that some brain damage has already occurred and treatment needs to be started immediately.

Advanced symptoms

If the damage to the brain continues, symptoms can quickly worsen, making daily activities increasingly difficult.

The symptoms will typically get worse in sudden steps, with stable periods lasting months or years in between. However, the rate of progression varies and it can be very difficult to predict when your symptoms may worsen.

Symptoms of vascular dementia depend on which area of the brain has been damaged. Possible symptoms include:

  • severe 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 apathy (unresponsiveness)
  • finding it difficult to walk and keep balance, frequently falling
  • difficulty controlling urination (urinary incontinence)
  • seeing things that aren't there (hallucinations)

Some people with vascular dementia will also have some symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, too.

Seeking medical advice

If you think you may have early symptoms of vascular dementia, see your GP because the chances of slowing it down may be better if it's diagnosed early.

If you're worried about someone else, encourage them to make an appointment and perhaps suggest that you go along with them.

Symptoms of vascular dementia can have a number of different causes. Your GP can carry out some simple checks to find out what the cause may be, and refer you to a specialist if necessary.

Read more about diagnosing vascular dementia.

Page last reviewed: 22/01/2015

Next review due: 22/01/2017