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Mild Cognitive Impairment

What is mild cognitive impairment?

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a neurological condition that presents with subjective complains of forgetfulness, inattentiveness, difficulty finding words, or similar problems. In order for someone to be diagnosed with MCI, he/she should also demonstrate objective cognitive deficits during an examination by a neurologist. These deficits should not meaningfully interfere with person’s daily life. When person is diagnosed with MCI it means that his/her memory, or other cognitive areas are not normal but the person does not have dementia, which is a more severe and advanced neurological condition.

What are the usual symptoms of mild cognitive impairment?

People present with numerous symptoms including forgetfulness, difficulty staying focused, getting easily distracted, having difficulty finding words to name a few. MCI can present with different symptoms and symptom combinations. 

It’s important to remember that our memory and cognition slowly declines with age and developing mild forgetfulness, for example not remembering names, might not necessarily mean an underlying disease. 

What causes mild cognitive impairment? 

There are many conditions which might cause mild cognitive impairment. Frequently, MCI is a transition phase followed by more severe neurological impairment - dementia. Any type of neurodegenerative disease, which causes dementia, can cause MCI. Most frequently it is Alzheimer’s disease. Other conditions which might cause MCI are frontotemporal dementia, dementia with lewy bodies, primary progressive aphasia or similar conditions. Stroke can also cause mild cognitive impairment, which, if no additional events are suffered, should not progress.

Does having mild cognitive impairment increase the risk of developing dementia?

Yes, MCI increases the risk of developing dementia. It is estimated that approximately 10 – 15 people out of a 100 with MCI will develop dementia in a one year period, and about 80 out of that 100 will convert to dementia over the six-year follow up period. Due to the fact that MCI can be caused by multiple underlying diseases, there is no single type of dementia which the patient might develop, though Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of it. It is also estimated that about 20 percent of people who have MCI will return to normal cognition. 

How is MCI diagnosed?

It is not enough to only have a subjective memory complaint in order to be diagnosed with MCI. Careful testing of one's memory and other brain functions should be performed to confirm the diagnosis. 

Do patients with MCI need to be further evaluated? 

Yes, for several reasons: to establish the diagnosis, monitor for any progress and to treat any reversible conditions which might mimic MCI. Some of these conditions, like vitamin deficiencies or endocrine imbalance, might be reversible. The evaluation will usually consist of memory testing, blood work, and possibly brain imaging. Sometimes additional tests might be necessary.

What are available treatments for MCI?

Unless a specific cause, other then the neurodegenerative condition, is identified during evaluation, MCI does not have any specific medical treatment. There is evidence which shows that staying physically and mentally active, being actively involved in social activities, following healthy eating habits, and getting adequate amounts of sleep, might slow down or stop the progression of MCI. 

Where can I get evaluated for mild cognitive impairment?

Capital Institute for Neurosciences provides an array of services that are necessary for establishing the diagnosis and treatment for people with mild cognitive impairment. This includes a team evaluation by experienced physicians and neuropsychologists. Social workers and genetic counselors are available if needed. Neuroscience center has everything necessary in order to diagnose and help people with mild cognitive impairment. 

The information provided on these educational pages is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. And, if experiencing a medical emergency call 9-1-1. 

Last Updated 10/2013