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Diagnosis Neurology & Neurosurgery

Vascular Dementia

Patient evaluations for vascular dementia (VaD) are performed by a specially trained team including neurologists, radiologists, pharmacists, nurses and other health professionals at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center. The first step is to determine if a patient has dementia and if so, the cause. The most difficult part is differentiating it from Alzheimer's disease (AD), since the conditions share many similar symptoms.

The diagnosis may include:

  • Blood Tests Blood tests, including tests of thyroid function and vitamin B12 levels, are a routine part of the evaluation. Tests looking for evidence of diabetes and cholesterol levels also will be conducted.
  • Brain Scans Brain scans will be conducted, particularly to look for signs of prior strokes. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is one of the most useful tests in the evaluation of VaD. MRI is very sensitive to changes in the brain caused by stroke.
  • Medical History A medical history and symptoms will be collected. Patients should be accompanied by a family member or friend who can provide information about the patient's degree of memory loss and functional impairment with respect to daily activities.
  • Mental Status Assessment An evaluation of memory and ability to understand, communicate and other cognitive functions will be conducted. A patient will also be asked about depression and emotional behavior changes, since these are often altered in VaD.
  • Physical Exam Patients will have a thorough physical exam to check for vascular disease, risk factors and other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.