The terms Alzheimer’s and dementia are confusing enough – now experts have determined that mild cognitive impairment (MCI) also exists and in many ways, is independent of dementia-related conditions. With that being said, there’s some aspects which clearly overlap, as a portion of those with MCI will later develop dementia.
It’s important to set the record straight regarding a number of key elements and symptoms. In many cases, individuals are diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s, when they are actually suffering from MCI. As you can imagine, this is difficult for those who are diagnosed. On the other hand, it would be even more devastating to be diagnosed with MCI, only to find out that you do in fact have Alzheimer’s.
Myths and Facts Regarding MCI
Although there are still many aspects of MCI that aren’t fully understood, the following facts and myths may help clear up some of the confusion you’re currently facing.
Myth #1: If you suffer from MCI you will develop dementia in the future.
Fact: Those who are diagnosed with MCI do have problems with their memory, however, they do not yet appear to have dementia. It is most certainly true that once you’re diagnosed with MCI, you’re at an increased risk of developing dementia, however, it’s not a guarantee.
Based on past research, it’s believed that 10 to 15 percent of those with MCI will later develop dementia. At this time, researchers and medical professionals are not able to predict who will eventually develop dementia once diagnosed with MCI. Even after 10 years, it’s been reported that more than 60 percent of those with MCI will not progress towards dementia.
There are plenty of studies which state a much higher conversion rate, however, it is now believed that a large majority of MCI patients will remain stable. Although impairment may remain, it’s likely that many patients will not experience any further progression.
Myth #2: There’s a specific risk factor which causes MCI
Fact: Researchers do not yet fully understand what causes MCI, therefore, it’s impossible to pinpoint a specific risk factor that causes the development of MCI. At this time, there’s no way to predict who will suffer from MCI – or who will eventually develop dementia.
With that being said, there are some possible risk factors that have been identified. Of course, risk factors do not mean that an individual will develop MCI, but their likelihood does increase. Some of these risk factors include certain biomarkers, atrophy of the medial temporal lobe, carrying the gene known as APOE-e4, and a number of lifestyle factors.
Myth #3: If you suffer from some memory loss, you probably have MCI or mild Alzheimer’s
Fact: If you’re over the age of 60, lapses in memory can be frightening. Did you forget that you had an appointment last week? Are you finding it challenging to concentrate lately? The truth is, slight memory issues can be a normal part of aging.
During the typical aging process, it’s normal to forget parts of an event. If you are completely forgetting events or people you’ve recently met, this is when you should be concerned. If you have misplaced an item, are you able to problem-solve, coming up with possible locations? If so, this is fairly normal.
Once you can no longer follow verbal or written instructions, struggle to remember names, are unable to absorb new information, or any other abnormalities regarding cognition, it’s critical to make an appointment with your doctor. Once again, this does not mean that you suffer from MCI or dementia, but it’s important to eliminate these possibilities.
Myth #4: There’s only one type of MCI
Fact: MCI is actually classified into two types – amnestic and nonamnestic. Amnestic MCI specifically affects one’s memory and individuals often struggle to remember information they could previously recall with ease. This could be instances regarding recent events or conversations, knowing how to get to a familiar location, or even if medication was taken properly.
The other type – nonamnestic MCI, specifically affects cognitive skills other than memory. Impairments are typically seen within language, decision-making, executive functioning, and visual perception. In some cases, individuals seek their doctor’s advice, yet their memory loss is chalked down to normal aging, stress, depression, or another issue.
Alzheimer’s Compendium. (2011). Does Mild Cognitive Impairment Always Turn Into Dementia? Retrieved from http://www.alzcompend.info/?p=225
SLR. Frequently Asked Questions About MCI. Senior Living Residences. Retrieved from http://www.seniorlivingresidences.com/family-guide/mild-cognitive-impairment-the-facts/faq-mild-cognitive-impairment/