Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition in which people have more memory or other thinking problems than normal for their age, but their symptoms do not interfere with their everyday lives. Older people with MCI are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s, but not all of them do. Some may even go back to normal cognition. 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 »