Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. The subcortical ischaemic form (SIVD) frequently causes cognitive impairment and dementia in elderly people. SIVD results from small-vessel disease, which produces either arteriolar occlusion and lacunes or widespread incomplete infarction of white matter due to critical stenosis of medullary arterioles and hypoperfusion (Binswanger's disease). Symptoms include motor and cognitive dysexecutive slowing, forgetfulness, dysarthria, mood changes, urinary symptoms, and short-stepped gait. These manifestations probably result from ischaemic interruption of parallel circuits from the prefrontal cortex to the basal ganglia and corresponding thalamocortical connections. Brain imaging (computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging) is essential for correct diagnosis. The main risk factors are advanced age, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, hyperhomocysteinaemia, hyperfibrinogenaemia, and other conditions that can cause brain hypoperfusion such as obstructive sleep apnoea, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, and orthostatic hypotension. Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leucoencephalopathy (CADASIL)and some forms of cerebral amyloid angiopathy have a genetic basis. Treatment is symptomatic and prevention requires control of treatable risk factors.