Understanding Mild Cognitive Impairment

What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is an intermediate stage condition between normal cognitive functioning and Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia:

There is no single cause of mild cognitive impairment. The risk of developing MCI increases as you get older. Conditions such as diabetes, depression, and stroke may increase a person’s risk for MCI.

What Are the Symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment?

The symptoms of MCI are not as severe as the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. For example, people with MCI do not experience the personality changes or other problems that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s. People with MCI are still able to take care of themselves and do their normal daily activities.

Signs of MCI may include:

  • Losing or misplacing things often
  • Forgetting to go to events or appointments
  • Having more trouble coming up with words than other people of the same age
  • Trouble following conversations
  • Difficulty with managing finances such as paying bills

Movement and balance difficulties, and problems with the sense of smell (loss of smell or altered sense of smell) have also been linked to MCI.

Is Mild Cognitive Impairment Reversible?

Possibly, depending on the cause. There are many reasons a person can have trouble on a cognitive test, including sleep deprivation, certain medications, depression or other medical problems.

How is Mild Cognitive Impairment Diagnosed?

Because MCI may be an early sign of more serious memory problems, it’s important to see a doctor or specialist every six to 12 months. A doctor can help track changes in memory and thinking skills over time. Keeping a record of any changes can also be helpful.

People with MCI might also consider participating in clinical trials or studies. Clinical trials are research studies that help test if a treatment, like a new drug, is safe and effective in people. People with and without memory problems can take part in clinical trials, which may help themselves, their families, or future generations.

To find out more about participating in clinical trials for people with memory problems and people without cognitive impairment, visit Alzheimers.gov or call the Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center toll-free at 1-800-438-4380.

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