Family Resources » Mild Cognitive Impairment: The Facts » What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

What Does An MCI Diagnosis Mean?

It's difficult to come up with a short, easy explanation of what Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is. Please read through all of our FAQs to get a full and clear picture.

Here are the highlights:

  • MCI is a degree of cognitive impairment that is not normal for the individual’s age.
  • MCI describes a set of symptoms rather than a specific medical condition or disease.
  • Those with MCI have an increased risk of eventually developing Alzheimer's or another type of dementia. (It is generally considered to be the symptomatic "pre-dementia phase" of Alzheimer’s disease.)
  • However, not all people with MCI get worse -- the memory deficits associated with MCI can remain stable for years or improve over time.
  • Memory problems and other cognitive complications may be minimal to mild and hardly noticeable to the individual, or they may be more pronounced and noticeable to family and friends.
  • In contrast to Alzheimer's disease, where many cognitive skills are affected, MCI's deficits in memory and thinking ability may not significantly impact daily functioning.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) causes a slight but noticeable and measurable decline in cognitive abilities, including memory and thinking skills.

A person with MCI is at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's or another dementia.

Here are several "formal" definitions of Mild Cognitive Impairment:

  • It is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes. (Mayo Clinic)
  • It causes a slight but noticeable and measurable decline in cognitive abilities, including memory and thinking skills. (Alzheimer's Association)
  • It is a condition in which a person has problems with memory, language or another essential cognitive ability that are severe enough to be noticeable to others and show up on cognitive tests, but not severe enough to interfere with daily life. (International / National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners)

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