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Mild Cognitive Impairment

 

Introduction

To warrant a diagnosis of dementia, there should be sufficient changes to memory and other thinking functions to impact significantly on everyday activities. The change from being healthy to having dementia is gradual and so there is often a transitional stage where people experience symptoms of memory loss but are able to continue to perform their everyday activities . This transitional stage has come to be known as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Although having Mild Cognitive Impairment, especially if there is significant short-term memory loss, is a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease over subsequent years, there are other causes of Mild Cognitive Impairment and it is important to identify these as they may be treatable. Other causes may include the effects of medication, anxiety or depression, cognitive impairment secondary to strokes or other causes of dementia.

Symptoms

The most common indication of MCI is mild memory loss, for example finding difficulty keeping track of appointments made recently, forgetting the content of recent phone calls, or relying excessively on memory aids such as post-it-notes. At some points this forgetfulness can progress to affect other abilities: for instance, a difficulty in remembering some words might impair one's ability to communicate. The symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment are not severe enough to prevent a rich, independent, day-to-day life. People with mild cognitive impairment do not usually require any formal care.

Diagnosis

It is becoming increasingly important to recognise Mild Cognitive Impairment and to identify those who have the highest risk of going on to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Not only can currently available treatments be started as soon as is helpful, but new treatments are being developed that may alter the course of the condition and will need to be given at the earliest stage.

For these reasons, there has been a lot of research into new techniques to help accurately identify those people with MCI who will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease. The best currently available techniques involve accurate and detailed MRI brain scans, neuropsychological testing, and sometimes identification in the spinal fluid of the abnormal proteins that are the signatures of Alzheimer’s Disease. All of these investigations are available at Re:Cognition.

Treatment

Once the cause for MCI has been established the doctor will discuss the most appropriate treatment according to the cause of your symptoms.

If MCI is because of the earliest, or prodromal, stages of Alzheimer’s Disease,  there are currently a number of unique MCI treatments being investigated, which are designed to significantly change the course of the disease and to prevent or very significantly delay the progression from MCI to Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors at Re:Cognition are involved in these studies and at Re:Cognition we can direct individuals for who it is appropriate to these clinical trials.

Besides drug-treatment, there are a number of simple methods and supplements which might help people with mild cognitive impairment to maintain and protect their cognitive abilities. Our psychotherapists work on memory training and the use of memory aids to combat mild memory loss, and there is some reason to think that vitamin supplements may be helpful. Nutritionists associated with Re:Cognition can also provide consultation on site.  However, more research needs to be done to produce conclusive evidence for the benefit of dietary supplements.

If Mild Cognitive Impairment is due to stress, depression or anxiety, these underlying factors, as well as the cognitive symptoms can improve with either psychological or drug therapies.

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The content of this site is for information only and is not meant to substitute the advice of your own physician or other medical professionals.