How is mild cognitive impairment diagnosed?

Common symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) include problems with memory, reasoning, attention and language.​

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is usually considered after a patient reports concerns or symptoms, which can then be confirmed by a healthcare professional.​

It is important for the doctor to decide whether a person is experiencing MCI, normal ageing or dementia. This is done by assessing the severity of the symptoms and looking for the underlying causes of the condition​.

Initially, a doctor may ask a person with suspected MCI to describe their symptoms, when the symptoms started and how they may be affecting the person’s everyday life. A general health check may be carried out to gain a better picture of any underlying health issues, to see whether these may be contributing to symptoms of MCI.

The diagnosis is based on:​

  • Neurological tests, which may analyse reflexes, senses, eye movement and the eyes’ reaction to light​
  • Cognitive tests, which may take the form of interviews, as well as tests for memory, reasoning, attention, language and visual functions.​

There may be times when a doctor is required to refer patients with suspected MCI to a specialist. This may be for blood tests and brain imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.​

If you or someone you know is experiencing MCI symptoms it is important to visit a doctor. Diagnosing MCI is important as it allows patients and healthcare professionals to take action before symptoms worsen. People with MCI have a higher risk of developing dementia; thus, an earlier diagnosis will enable them to seek out information and advice on how to best manage their symptoms and prevent them from worsening.​


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