You begin to notice that your mom is forgetting things she once knew, yet she appears to be functioning normally in her day-to-day life. As you look into her symptoms further, you begin to think that she may be suffering from mild cognitive impairment (MCI). What now? How will she be diagnosed?
Unfortunately, there is no specific test which will confirm the diagnosis of MCI. In fact, MCI is still a fairly new term and there is still a lot to learn about this syndrome. In the past, many individuals have been diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s, when they actually displayed symptoms of MCI. So, how does someone get tested?
Reaching the Diagnosis of MCI
Once you notice changes, either in terms of yourself or a loved one, it’s critical to seek professional assistance. Once you make an appointment with you doctor, they will be able to narrow down the potential causes of your symptoms. A diagnosis will often come from the information provided by the patient of the patient’s family.
As soon as you notice something abnormal, start to document occurrences. When did you forget something? What information are you forgetting? When you become confused, was there anything that triggered your decreased cognitive functioning? Write all this information down in order for your doctor analyze. Once a diagnosis is reached, it is generally based on the following criteria:
- You are suffering from issues with your memory or another cognitive function.
- You have declined in a sense that you were functioning at a higher level prior to your symptoms – this may be verified by those close to you.
- Overall, you’re still able to function in your regular day-to-day activities. Symptoms may create some level of inconvenience or stress, however, you’re able to function independently.
- Based on a Mental State Examination, you display mild impairment in relation to your age and level of education.
- You do not have dementia – based on your reports, symptoms, mental status and history, your symptoms are not severe enough to be considered Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
Tests Administered When Diagnosing MCI
Although your doctor may be confident that you are suffering from MCI, they will more than likely administer a number of tests to rule out other possibilities or to verify their diagnosis. After your doctor has considered your medical history, your level of independent functioning, and receives input from family members, they may proceed with one of the following:
- As mentioned above, an assessment of mental status is generally administered. These tests are designed to better evaluate planning, memory, judgment, and other critical thinking skills.
- Next, a neurological exam may be required to eliminate the possibility of a potential stroke, Parkinson’s, or some other condition. Your doctor will focus on your balance, movement, reflexes, coordination, and sensory perception.
- Blood tests may also be required in order to rule out other contributing factors – such as a vitamin deficiency, anemia, or thyroid issues.
Once a diagnosis has been made, continue to document your symptoms. Continue to see your doctor on a regular basis in order to determine whether or not your condition is progressing. If so, a brain imaging test, such as an MRI or CT scan may be required.
Mayo Clinic. (2013). Tests and Diagnosis. Retrieved from