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Multi-infarct dementia

What is multi-infarct dementia?
Multi-infarct dementia is a common cause of memory loss in the elderly. Multi-infarct dementia is caused by multiple strokes (disruption of blood flow to the brain). Disruption of blood flow leads to damaged brain tissue. Some of these strokes may occur without noticeable clinical symptoms. Doctors refer to these as “silent strokes.” An individual having a silent stroke may not even know it is happening, but over time, as more areas of the brain are damaged and more small blood vessels are blocked, the symptoms of multi-infarct dementia begin to appear. Multi-infarct dementia can be diagnosed by an MRI or CT of the brain, along with a neurological examination. Symptoms include confusion or problems with short-term memory; wandering, or getting lost in familiar places; walking with rapid, shuffling steps; losing bladder or bowel control; laughing or crying inappropriately; having difficulty following instructions; and having problems counting money and making monetary transactions. Multi-infarct dementia, which typically begins between the ages of 60 and 75, affects men more often than women. Because the symptoms of multi-infarct dementia are so similar to Alzheimer’s disease, it can be difficult for a doctor to make a firm diagnosis. Since the diseases often occur together, making a single diagnosis of one or the other is even more problematic.

Is there any treatment?
There is no treatment available to reverse brain damage that has been caused by a stroke. Treatment focuses on preventing future strokes by controlling or avoiding the diseases and medical conditions that put people at high risk for stroke: high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. The best treatment for multi-infarct dementia is prevention early in life – eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking, moderately using alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight.

What is the prognosis?
The prognosis for individuals with multi-infarct dementia is generally poor. The symptoms of the disorder may begin suddenly, often in a step-wise pattern after each small stroke. Some people with multi-infarct dementia may even appear to improve for short periods of time, then decline after having more silent strokes. The disorder generally takes a downward course with intermittent periods of rapid deterioration. Death may occur from stroke, heart disease, pneumonia, or other infection.

What research is being done?
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts research related to multi-infarct dementia in its laboratories at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and also supports additional research through grants to major medical institutions across the country. Much of this research focuses on finding better ways to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure the vascular dementias, such as multi-infarct dementia.

Patient recruitment for multi-infarct dementia clinical trials
Throughout the U.S. and Worldwide

For more information
The organizations listed below offer more information about some of the topics mentioned in this fact sheet.

Alzheimer’s Association
225 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 1700
Chicago, Illinois 60601

Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
P.O. Box 8250
Silver Spring, MD 20907-8250

American Stroke Association (a division of the American Heart Association)
7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas, TX 75231
1-888-4-STROKE (478-7653)

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824

National Stroke Association
9707 E. Easter Lane
Englewood, CO 80112
1-800-STROKES (787-6537)

National Institute on Aging (NIA)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Drive, Rm 5C27 MSC 2292
Bethesda, MD 20892-2292
310-496-1752, 800-222-2225

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
6001 Executive Blvd. Rm. 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
301-443-4513, 866-415-8051, 301-443-8431 (TTY)

This information was developed by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. NINDS Multi-Infarct Dementia Information Page . Available at: Last accessed April 24, 2023.

The information in this document is for general educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for personalized professional advice. Although the information was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, MedLink Corporation, its representatives, and the providers of the information do not guarantee its accuracy and disclaim responsibility for adverse consequences resulting from its use. For further information, consult a physician and the organization referred to herein.

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