While there are currently no specific treatments for vascular dementia, a doctor may prescribe medication to treat the risk factors like high blood pressure or diabetes. More research is needed to see if treating these conditions could slow the development of vascular dementia.

To help control these underlying conditions, your doctor may support you to stop smoking, exercise regularly and to eat a healthy balanced diet. Research is still ongoing but has found that following this advice may help to reduce your risk of developing vascular dementia.

Vascular dementia is sometimes caused by a stroke, so a doctor may also recommend physiotherapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy if appropriate.

Cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine are not usually beneficial for people with vascular dementia. However, they may be helpful for people diagnosed with both Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, which is often called ‘mixed dementia’. You can read more about these medications here

Depression

Depression is common in all forms of dementia. Your doctor may consider recommending cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT provides an opportunity for people to talk about their worries and concerns with a specialist practitioner. It aims to help people develop different ways of thinking and behaving.

There may also be other therapies offered in your local area that could help; these might include exercise or group activities such as music therapy.

You may be offered an antidepressant drug, either as an alternative to CBT or in combination with it. There are different types, or classes, of antidepressant; some are not suitable for people with dementia. Your doctor will be able to advise you if an antidepressant could help and which type would be best.

Agitation, anxiety and aggression

Some people with dementia experience agitation, aggression, delusions (negative or mistaken beliefs), severe anxiety, hallucinations, sleep disturbances and other behavioural symptoms. They are also known as neuropsychiatric symptoms or behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD).

While these symptoms can be difficult for the person living with dementia and their loved ones, there are simple things that might help. It may be possible to identify the cause or trigger of aggression or agitation. A person’s physical health may affect their behaviour – for example pain, being constipated or needing the toilet. Someone’s surroundings can also affect their behaviour, as well as their feelings towards certain situations.

Finding out if there are triggers that cause aggressive or agitated behaviour means it might be possible to remove, treat or avoid them. Mild behavioural symptoms can often be helped with adjustments to physical surroundings, reassurance or changes to daily routine. Possible triggers could include:

  • undetected pain or discomfort
  • infection
  • depression
  • social situations
  • factors in the environment
  • disruption to routine.
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Treatments for dementia

Read more about treatments for dementia, including information on treating depression, anxiety and agitation and for information on antipsychotics.

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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Order health information

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 April 2020 and is due for review in April 2022. It does not replace any advice that doctors, pharmacists or nurses may give you. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.

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Dementia Research Infoline

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