Help with MCI in later life.
Have you ever gone into a room and forgotten what you went in for? That’s quite normal. We all forget things from time to time, especially when preoccupied or distracted – and as we get older we all experience subtle memory loss. This would not usually cause any difficulty except for mild inconvenience.
But if you begin to forget things more frequently it may be a sign of Mild Cognitive Impairment. This is a condition in which there is a slightly more obvious problem with memory (or other aspects of brain function such as planning, recognition or use of language) but not so much as to be diagnosed as Dementia.
Often the only symptom of MCI is having problems with remembering things such as names, appointments or conversations. This is not bad enough to affect day-to-day living and often the lost memory will return later.
What are the causes?
With some people, MCI is a symptom of early dementia. However, others may have symptoms of MCI because they are depressed or anxious. For others no cause for the MCI can be found and it will not progress over time. At the moment it is not really possible to tell for sure which people with MCI will go on to get dementia.
Key facts about MCI
- Because of problems in defining and identifying MCI, studies have come up with very different figures about how common it is.
- It probably affects somewhere between 5% and 30% of older people.
- About 1/3 of people with MCI will develop dementia over 5 years.
MCI usually causes nothing more than mild inconvenience. It may be embarrassing to forget someone’s name, or a recent conversation. It may also make you worried that something more serious is the cause.
How is it diagnosed?
MCI is diagnosed by taking a full account of the symptoms and how they have developed over time. A test of brain function, known as a cognitive test, is also helpful. Sometimes a brain scan will be needed to exclude other conditions as causes. Because the symptoms may be caused by Depression or Anxiety, the doctor will want to take a full account of your mental health too.
How is it treated?
Keeping fit and healthy, taking exercise and exercising your brain (reading, doing crosswords or Sudoku puzzles or playing bridge are just a few examples) is thought to be important in maintaining a healthy brain. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure these should be controlled well. Anti-dementia drugs are not thought to be helpful in MCI. If the person with MCI has Depression or Anxiety, treating these conditions may help the symptoms.
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