Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild Cognitive Impairment

What is Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)?

MCI is a set of symptoms rather than a disease. It is a condition in which someone has minor problems with their brain functions, i.e. cognition – e.g. memory or thinking.
These difficulties are worse than for a healthy person of their age. However, the symptoms are not severe enough to significantly affect daily life, and hence are not termed as dementia. It is estimated that about 5-20% of people over 65 have MCI. It is not a type of dementia, but a person with MCI is more likely to develop dementia. However, not everyone with MCI will get worse and develop dementia.
Everyone can reduce their risk of MCI and dementia by not smoking, drinking in moderation, eating a healthy and balanced diet and by taking regular physical and mental exercise.

What are the symptoms?A person with MCI has some problems with one or more of the following:

Memory – for e.g., asking the same question or forgetting recent events

Planning or organizing – for e.g., struggling with thinking things through

Attention – for e.g., being very easily distracted

Language – for e.g., taking much longer than usual to find the correct word during conversation.


Some people with MCI may have a different, often treatable. This could include depression, anxiety or stress. It may be necessary to wait a few months or more, to see how the person’s symptoms develop.


Diagnosis may require more than one appointment and may include more detailed assessment. A brain scan may be done, particularly if other potential causes (e.g. brain bleed, tumour) are suspected. Your doctor will use their own judgement to make the diagnosis.