Diagnosing MCI and identifying the cause means you can get the right help and support.. With the correct diagnosis, you may also be able to take part in research to test new dementia treatments.

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

Keeping track of symptoms in a diary and bringing it with you can help when speaking to your doctor. A family member or person that supports you can help keep the diary, as there may be symptoms you do not notice.

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, coordination, and reflexes.
  • perform 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. These conditions are common and diagnosing them is important.

If these conditions have been ruled out, the doctor can refer you to a memory clinic or other specialist clinic for further tests to find out the cause of your 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 on  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, you should 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 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.

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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 2023 and is due to be reviewed in November 2025. 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.

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