Mild cognitive impairment

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a term used to describe early memory and thinking problems in older people. It is not a disease in itself.

Diagnosing MCI means you can get the right help and support to plan for the future, if necessary. You may also be able to take part in vital research.

You should talk to your doctor if you are worried about your memory or thinking, or someone else’s.

If your doctor suspects MCI, they can:

  • Ask you about your medical history and lifestyle to rule out other possible causes.
  • Arrange for you to have memory and thinking tests, scans or blood tests.

After assessment your doctor may decide that your symptoms are due to another condition such as depression, anxiety or thyroid problems. If this is the case they will be able to provide the best course of treatment.

If you are diagnosed with MCI the doctor will be able to discuss what this means for you. You can continue to make decisions for yourself and carry on with the activities you enjoy.

As people with MCI are at a higher risk of developing dementia, your doctor may arrange follow-up visits to see if your symptoms get worse over time. If they do get worse, the doctor may refer you to a memory clinic or a specialist for further tests.

Unlike dementia, if you are diagnosed with MCI you may not have to tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). However, if you feel your symptoms are affecting your driving you should inform the DVLA who will review your case. If you are unsure you should discuss this with your doctor.

This information was written in January 2018 and is due to be reviewed in November 2019. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.

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