Diagnosing mild cognitive impairment is important, it means you can find out what may be causing the conditions and if appropriate access the right treatments, help and support.

Diagnosing MCI means you can get the right help and support. Identifying the cause of someone’s MCI means the right treatment and management of the condition can be started. With the correct diagnosis you may also be able to take part in research to test new treatments.

Your doctor is the first person to see if you are worried about your memory or thinking.

When you visit your doctor, they should:

  • ask how your symptoms are affecting you.
  • if possible, talk to a loved one about how symptoms affect your daily life.
  • give you a physical check-up testing movement and coordination, and reflexes.
  • blood tests to look for vitamin deficiencies, thyroid disorders and to check overall health
  • look over your medical history and any medications you take.
  • do some tests with you, to check your memory and thinking skills.


Your doctor may find out that your symptoms are due to a health 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 these conditions have been ruled out the doctor can refer you to a memory clinic or other specialist clinic for further tests which help to find out the cause of someone’s MCI. These tests may include:

  • a brain scan to look for signs of dementia
  • further thinking and memory tests
  • lumbar puncture to test spinal fluid for warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.


Because Mild Cognitive Impairment affects people differently, and has many causes, some people experience difficulties getting their symptoms diagnosed. This means it can take longer to get the right diagnosis.

If you are struggling to get a diagnosis and are worried about your symptoms you can speak with dementia specialist nurses on the Admiral Nurse Helpline 0800 888 6678 or helpline@dementiauk.org


If you are diagnosed with MCI, your doctor can talk to you about the next steps. As people with MCI have a higher risk of developing dementia, arrange a follow-up visit to your doctor every year to see if your symptoms get worse over time. If you notice they do get worse, you can go to the doctor as soon as possible and ask for a referral back to the memory clinic for follow up tests.

What is mild cognitive impairment?

This introductory leaflet aims to help you understand mild cognitive impairment. It’s for anyone who might be worried about their own or someone else’s memory.


Order health information

Alzheimer’s Research UK has a wide range of information about dementia. Order booklets or download them from our online form.

This information was updated in November 2021 and is due to be reviewed in November 2023. It was written by Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Information Services team with input from lay and expert reviewers.

Our information does not replace advice that doctors, pharmacists, or nurses may give you.

Was this information helpful?

Let us know what you think by filling out this short survey.


Dementia Research Infoline

Want to know more about dementia? Keen to take part in research projects?

Contact the Dementia Research Infoline:

9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

0300 111 5 111