Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition in which people have memory or other thinking problems greater than normal for their age and education, but their symptoms are not as severe as those seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease. More older people with MCI, compared with those without MCI, go on to develop Alzheimer’s. Studies are underway to learn why some people with MCI progress to Alzheimer’s and others do not.
The problems associated with MCI may also be caused by certain medications, cerebrovascular disease (which affects blood vessels that supply the brain), and other factors. Some of the problems brought on by these conditions can be managed or reversed.
The type of MCI with memory loss as the main symptom is called amnestic MCI. In another type, nonamnestic MCI, the main symptom is an impaired thinking skill other than memory loss, such as trouble planning and organizing or poor judgment.
An expert panel convened by the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association collaborated to develop updated diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease, released in April, 2011. The group also clarified earlier stages of the disease, including mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer's disease. The MCI stage is marked by symptoms of memory problems, enough to be noticed and measured, but not compromising a person’s independence. People with MCI may or may not progress to Alzheimer’s dementia. Read more about the updated diagnostic guidelines for MCI »