Vascular dementia accounts for approximately 20% of all cases of dementia and for about 50% in subjects over 80 years. Thromboembolism with multiple cerebral infarcts was considered to be almost the only pathogenetic pathway of vascular dementia, with multi-infarct dementia as its clinical manifestation. However, there is a great heterogeneity of vascular dementia syndromes and pathological subtypes, as documented by the number of pathogenetic mechanisms now known to underlie the clinical picture. They include thromboembolism and extracerebral and cerebral factors. Among the extracerebral factors are ischemic hypoxic dementia (i.e., dementia due to hypoperfusion), vasculitis, hyperviscosity and abnormalities of hemostasis. Among the cerebral factors are lipohyalinosis, cerebral amyloid angiopathy, disruption of the blood-brain barrier and altered regulation of cerebral blood flow. Therefore, the approach to vascular dementia should take the heterogeneity into account. In this context, the importance of non-infarct type should be considered; subcortical white matter disorder seems to be a noteworthy common pathway of vascular dementia produced by various vascular mechanisms. Finally, the heterogeneity of the vascular mechanisms involved in vascular dementia--namely hypoperfusion--might be a factor that can be positively influenced by targeted therapeutic intervention.
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