Memory difficulties are a common part of growing older. For instance, you might have trouble recalling a conversation that happened a year ago or struggle to find the right word from time to time. More severe memory loss that affects your ability to carry out daily tasks or live alone safely can be caused by any number of conditions that include Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is more than normal memory loss associated with aging, but less severe than dementia. MCI can affect your memory, cognitive skills, or both. Learn more about mild cognitive impairment in this blog from The Bristal.
What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?
The Alzheimer’s Association states that mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is categorized by a loss of memory or other cognitive skills (e.g., language, judgement, or visual/spatial skills) that does not interfere with a person’s ability to function or live independently. While MCI is considered a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to note that not everyone who has a mild cognitive impairment will also develop dementia.
What are the Symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment?
MCI falls into two different categories: Amnestic MCI and Nonamnestic MCI. Amnestic MCI refers to a mild cognitive impairment that impacts a person’s memory, while Nonamnestic MCI affects a person’s cognitive skills. Depending on the type of MCI, symptoms may include:
- Forgetting appointments, recent conversations, or the names of friends or family members. Losing common items (keys, purse, wallet, etc.) frequently.
- Trouble with language skills like difficulty finding the right word or following a conversation.
- Problems with attention.
- Difficulty with typical tasks like taking medications, driving, cooking, or cleaning.
Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment for Mild Cognitive Impairment
Mild cognitive impairment can be caused by a variety of factors and/or diseases. Known causes for MCI include:
- Side effects from certain medications
- Problems with eyesight or hearing
- Vitamin deficiency – especially low levels of B12
- Sleep apnea
- Conditions affecting the brain, thyroid, kidney or liver
Diseases that may cause mild cognitive impairment include Parkinson’s disease, as well as dementia.
Diagnosing Mild Cognitive Impairment
Diagnosing MCI begins with a trip to your primary care provider who will review you or your loved one’s medical history. In addition to looking at your current medications, your provider will also want to know about any medical conditions – both current and past. Blood tests, MRI or PET scans and tests to measure your memory and other cognitive skills are typically used during the diagnostic process.
Treating Mild Cognitive Impairment
Research examining treatments for mild cognitive impairment is ongoing. The approach recommended by your provider will depend on the underlying cause. In some cases, mild cognitive impairment can be reversed once the underlying cause (e.g., vitamin deficiency, sleep apnea, etc.) has been addressed.
If your provider determines that your loved one’s MCI is caused by dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, he or she may recommend lifestyle changes (e.g., diet, exercise, memory training) to help slow the progress and manage symptoms.
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