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 type of dementia.

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 skills, or someone else’s.

When you visit your doctor, they may:

  • Ask about your medical history and your daily life.
  • Give you a physical check-up including blood tests.
  • Run through some pen-and-paper tests with you, to check your memory and thinking skills.

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

If the doctor feels you may have MCI, they can refer you to a memory clinic or other specialist clinic for further tests, which may include a brain scan. If you are diagnosed with MCI, your doctor can 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 have 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, they may ask you back to the memory clinic 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 updated in November 2019 and is due to be reviewed in November 2021. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.

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