Mild Cognitive Impairment
Mild Cognitive Impairment is when a person has some memory loss but they don't have dementia.
Although we can all be affected by 'senior moments' the Alzheimer's Society studies show that 10-15% of people with MCI go on to develop dementia.
Moreover, underlying conditions can cause MCI such as high blood pressure, depression or sleep apnoea so it is important to obtain an assessment with a specialist.
What is mild cognitive impairment (MCI)?
Mild cognitive impairment is a general term that describes some loss of cognitive function that does not qualify as dementia.
The memory loss is observable to the person with mild cognitive impairment and to those around them, and may be diagnosed through testing, but there are no other symptoms of dementia present.
What causes mild cognitive impairment?
It is important to stress that, while everyone has problems remembering things from time to time, particularly as they get older, they normally score adequately on memory tests so cannot be regarded as suffering from MCI.
There are many reasons why someone would experience a memory loss strong enough to be diagnosed with MCI, including stress, depression or a physical condition (examples include high blood pressure and sleep apnoea).
Some people with MCI may, however, be in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, and this is why correct and early diagnosis is important.
Symptoms of mild cognitive impairment
Mild cognitive function can affect judgement, sequential activities, visual perception and other abilities.
People with MCI do not lose these abilities but they have problems with their memory. They may forget the names of people they have just met or conversations they had a short time ago, while remembering distant events very clearly. They often forget appointments and may find it difficult to follow the thread of a book or film. They may become more irritable than usual, and lose their way even in a familiar environment.
The importance of specialist diagnosis
According to the Alzheimer’s Society studies carried out in memory clinics showed that 10-15% of people with mild cognitive impairment went on to develop dementia in the following years.
For this reason, it is very important to diagnose people with MCI. The earlier they are diagnosed the easier it is for doctors to keep an eye on them so that if they develop dementia symptoms they can be treated early.
Treatment of MCI
There is no specific treatment for MCI, but in cases where the impairment is a precursor of Alzheimer’s disease, medications intended for Alzheimer’s disease may be effective.
For underlying conditions that may give rise to MCI, such as depression, sleep apnoea and high blood pressure, treating the main condition usually improves the MCI symptoms.
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