Understanding mild cognitive impairment: Navigating memory changes

Autore: Professor Farooq Khan
Editor: Sophie Kennedy

While occasional lapses in memory are common, for some individuals, these memory blanks may raise concerns about mild cognitive impairment (MCI). In this article, esteemed consultant psychiatrist Professor Farooq Khan sheds light on MCI, exploring its nature, signs, and potential implications.

What is mild cognitive impairment?

Mild cognitive impairment is a subtle but noticeable decline in cognitive abilities, particularly in memory and thinking skills. It's important to understand that while MCI can cause some challenges, it doesn't necessarily interfere significantly with daily life. Think of it as a middle ground between normal age-related memory decline and more serious conditions like dementia.


What are the signs of mild cognitive impairment?

Identifying mild cognitive impairment involves paying attention to specific signs. Individuals experiencing MCI may notice difficulties in remembering recent events, appointments, or familiar faces. Concentration and decision-making may also become slightly more challenging. It's crucial to note that these changes are often subtle and not severe enough to disrupt routine activities.


What causes mild cognitive impairment to develop?

MCI can result from various factors, such as age-related changes in the brain, genetics, or underlying health conditions. While the exact cause may vary, some common risk factors include cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and a history of stroke. Understanding these factors helps in addressing mild cognitive impairment more effectively.

As the understanding and research in dementia progresses further there are more in depth insights into MCI. Sub-classification of MCIs will become one of the mainstay in the future treatment of these conditions. For instance, the newly developed monoclonal antibodies for Alzheimer’s disease are licenced by FDA in the US for early Alzheimer’s dementia or for MCI due to Alzheimer’s disease. These molecules are specific and are designed to remove Amyloid beta depositions from the brain which are known to cause the pathologic changes in Alzheimer’s disease. Once these molecules are licenced in the UK, there will be a need to subtype and classify the MCI into different categories to appropriately choose patients who will be eligible for the treatment at MCI stage of Alzheimer’s disease.


When should I see a specialist?

If you or a loved one observes persistent changes in memory and cognitive function, seeking timely assessment is crucial. This involves a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional, which may include memory tests, cognitive assessments, and a review of medical history. Early detection enables the development of strategies to manage symptoms and potentially slow down progression.

Currently there are no drugs or medications licenced for MCI in the UK but in the future the treatments might be available if the MCI is due to Alzheimer’s disease once approval of the medication comes through MHRA. While MCI itself doesn't always progress to more severe conditions, it's essential to stay vigilant. If you notice a significant decline in cognitive abilities or if daily activities become challenging, seeking professional help is paramount. A healthcare professional can conduct further assessments and provide guidance on appropriate interventions.


How can lifestyle interventions help to support people with mild cognitive impairment?

Managing mild cognitive impairment often involves adopting a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep contribute significantly to overall brain health. Additionally, engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzles or social interactions, can help maintain cognitive function. A support network of friends and family can offer emotional support, making the journey more manageable.



If you are concerned about memory problems or the signs of cognitive impairment, you can schedule a consultation with Professor Khan by visiting his Top Doctors profile.

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Professor Farooq Khan

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