|Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) causes a slight but noticeable and measurable decline in cognitive abilities, including memory and thinking skills. A person with MCI is at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's or another dementia.|
Mild cognitive impairment causes cognitive changes that are serious enough to be noticed by the individuals experiencing them or to other people, but the changes are not severe enough to interfere with daily life or independent function.Because the changes caused by MCI are not severe enough to affect daily life, a person with MCI does not meet diagnostic guidelines for dementia. However, those with MCI have an increased risk of eventually developing Alzheimer's or another type of dementia. However, not all people with MCI get worse and some eventually get better.
Experts classify Mild cognitive impairment based on the thinking skills affected:
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Mild cognitive impairment is a "clinical" diagnosis representing a doctor's best professional judgment about the reason for a person's symptoms. There are currently no tests or procedures to demonstrate conclusively that a person has MCI. It's also not yet possible to determine the underlying cause of MCI in a specific person.
A medical workup for MCI includes the following core elements:
If the workup doesn't create a clear clinical picture, the doctor may recommend neuropsychological testing, which involves a series of written or computerized tests to evaluate specific thinking skills.
The causes of mild cognitive impairment are not yet completely understood. Experts believe that many cases — but not all — result from brain changes occurring in the very early stages of Alzheimer's disease or other dementias.The risk factors most strongly linked to MCI are the same as those for dementia: advancing age, family history of Alzheimer's or another dementia, and conditions that raise risk for cardiovascular disease.
Learn more: Dementia Risk and Prevention
No medications are currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat mild cognitive impairment. Drugs approved to treat symptoms of Alzheimer's disease have not shown any lasting benefit in delaying or preventing progression of MCI to dementia.
The following coping strategies may be helpful for those with MCI. Some studies suggest that these strategies may help slow decline in thinking skills, although more research is needed to confirm their effect.
Experts recommend that a person diagnosed with MCI be re-evaluated every six months to determine if symptoms are staying the same, improving or growing worse.
MCI increases the risk of later developing dementia, but some people with MCI never get worse. Others with MCI later have test results that return to normal for their age and education.
It's not yet possible to tell for certain what the outcome of MCI will be for a specific person or to determine the underlying cause of MCI from a person's symptoms.
Researchers hope to increase the power to predict MCI outcomes by developing new diagnostic tools to identify and measure underlying brain changes linked to specific types of dementia. Stay informed about research investigating MCI, Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Sign up for enews today.