Vascular dementia can have symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s, like memory loss, confusion and problems with communication. But there can also be more specific symptoms depending on the cause of vascular dementia and area of the brain affected.

Symptoms in post-stroke dementia might occur immediately or soon after a stroke event; people are sometimes described as having a “stepwise” decline in their overall functioning.

Symptoms in small vessel disease often develop in a more gradual way, this means the symptoms will get worse over time. The speed of change can vary over time and from person to person.


Vascular dementia symptoms may include:

  • Slower thinking - taking more time to process information, follow instructions or to plan ahead.
  • Speaking – struggling to find the right words, slurring speech or difficulty following conversations.
  • Personality changes – people may become low in mood, have reduced motivation or be more emotional, or lose interest in what’s happening around them.
  • Movement problems and stability - difficulty or unsteadiness walking or changes in the way a person walks.


Symptoms get worse over time. In the later stages of dementia, the condition affects most aspects of everyday life. This means that over time people may need help and support with eating, dressing, washing, and using the toilet.

What is vascular dementia?

This booklet aims to help you understand more about vascular dementia. It gives an overview of the causes, symptoms and treatments.

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Alzheimer’s Research UK has a wide range of information about dementia. Order booklets or download them from our online form.

This information was updated in December 2021 and is due to be reviewed in December 2023, it was written by Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Information Services team with input from lay and expert reviewers. Please get in touch if you’d like a version with references or in a different format.

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