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Mild Cognitive Impairment: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Complications

Feb 15, 2024

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Causes Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Symptoms Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Risk Factors Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Diagnosis Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Neural assessment

Testing in laboratories

Brain Mapping

Treatment Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Drugs for Alzheimer's

Treating  the reversible causes of MCI

Prevention Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Complications Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild cognitive impairment is a stage that falls between the more severe decline of dementia and the typical decline in memory and reasoning associated with aging (MCI). Memory, language, and judgment problems can be brought on by MCI.

Individuals with MCI may be aware that their memory or mental abilities have "slipped." Family members and close acquaintances may also notice changes. However, these changes aren't significant enough to cause problems with daily activities or life.

In patients with MCI, dementia caused by Alzheimer's disease or other brain disorders may become more prevalent. However, some people may never have a worsening of mild cognitive impairment. And some do become better with time.

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Causes Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

There is no one cause of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), while early Alzheimer's disease may be the culprit. There isn't just one way to treat the problem. The symptoms of MCI may not go away for years. On the other hand, MCI may result in dementia from Alzheimer's disease or another type. Sometimes, MCI might improve over time.

Patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) often have the same kind of brain changes associated with dementia, particularly Alzheimer's disease. In MCI, these changes are less noticeable. Several of these anomalies have been revealed by autopsy investigations on MCI patients.

These changes include:

  • Alzheimer's disease is typified by plaques, which are collections of beta-amyloid proteins, and tangles of tau proteins.
  • Lewy bodies are microscopic aggregates of a protein. These clusters are associated with Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and some cases of Alzheimer's disease.
  • Small strokes or a reduction in the blood supply to the brain via the arteries.

Based on brain imaging research, MCI may be associated with the following changes:

  • Reduction in the size of the hippocampus region, a key memory-related brain region.
  • Increased size of the brain's fluid-filled ventricles.
  • Reduced absorption of glucose in key brain regions. Glucose is the main sugar that gives cells energy.

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Symptoms Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Both the body and the brain change as we age. Many people notice that their forgetting increases with age. It could take longer to think of a word or to recall a person's name.

When problems with mental function go beyond what is expected, moderate cognitive impairment (MCI) may be the source of the symptoms. MCI may result in cognitive changes if:

  • You become more forgetful.
  • You miss appointments and social events.
  • Your train of thought slows down. Perhaps you have trouble following the plot of a book or movie.
  • You have trouble keeping up with a discussion.
  • You find it difficult to make decisions, complete tasks, or follow instructions.
  • Even in familial circumstances, your sense of orientation starts to fade.
  • Your judgment begins to falter.
  • Your friends and family notice any changes that occur.

Furthermore, if you have MCI, you may experience:

  • Depression
  • Fear and unease
  • Anger
  • A lack of enthusiasm

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Risk Factors Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

The following are the main risk factors for MCI:

  • Growing older.
  • Possessing the APOE e4 gene in its modified form. Alzheimer's disease is also associated with this gene. However, having the gene does not ensure that your memory and reasoning skills will deteriorate.

An elevated risk of cognitive alterations has been associated with several medical diseases and lifestyle factors, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Being overweight
  • Depression
  • Apnea obstructive sleep
  • Absence of exercise
  • Low education level
  • Absence of social or intellectually engaging activities

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Diagnosis Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Moderate cognitive impairment (MCI) cannot be determined by a single test. A diagnosis is made using the information you provide and the results of any tests that can help characterize the condition.

Many medical experts use the following criteria, which were developed by a group of worldwide specialists, to diagnose MCI:

  • Problems with memory or other mental functions: Decision-making, planning, memory, and following instructions are a few of the cognitive processes that MCI may impair. These worries could be confirmed by a close friend or relative of the supplier.
  • Declining mental capacities throughout time: A complete medical history makes this clear. A close friend or relative confirms the modification.
  • Regular activities are not impacted: Notwithstanding their symptoms, which may cause alarm, people with MCI are nevertheless able to lead regular lives.
  • Based on age and level of education, mental state tests indicate a mild degree of disability: Medical personnel typically employ a brief assessment such as the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), or the Short Test of Mental Status. Additional comprehensive testing may be beneficial to determine the degree of memory impairment. If other cognitive functions are also affected, the tests might be useful in determining which memory categories are most affected.
  • A diagnosis of dementia is not present: Dementia with Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia cannot be applied to the problems because they are not severe enough.

Neural assessment

As part of a physical examination, a medical practitioner may do a few quick tests to assess how well the brain and neurological system are working. These tests can help detect signs of conditions including Parkinson's disease, strokes, tumors, or other illnesses that may impair memory and other body processes.

A neurological evaluation could determine:

  • Adaptations.
  • Eye motion
  • Walking while keeping their balance

Testing in laboratories

Blood tests can help rule out illnesses that could cause memory problems. This could be caused by low thyroid hormone or vitamin B-12.

Brain Mapping

An MRI or CT scan can be used to check for bleeding, strokes, and brain tumors.

Assessing mental health

It takes about ten minutes to perform a short mental status test. You will be assessed on your ability to identify the day and follow instructions.

Extended assessments can provide more detailed information on a person's mental health in comparison to others of their own age and educational background. These tests may also be able to identify patterns of change that offer clues about the cause of symptoms.

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Treatment Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Ongoing research is being done on moderate cognitive impairment. Clinical research is being conducted to find out more about the illness and to create medicines that may reduce symptoms or even prevent or delay dementia.

Drugs for Alzheimer's

Cholinesterase inhibitors are an Alzheimer's drug that may be provided to a patient with MCI whose main symptom is memory loss. Nevertheless, cholinesterase inhibitors are not recommended for the ongoing treatment of MCI. They have not been demonstrated to delay the onset of dementia and may have harmful effects.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized lecanemab, also known as Leqembi, for use in treating patients with MCI and Alzheimer's disease. Not all MCI patients are expected to be affected by Alzheimer's disease since only some MCI patients develop MCI as a result of the condition.

A phase 3 clinical study found that when taking the drug, those with early-stage Alzheimer's disease saw reduced cognitive decline. Lecanemab works by preventing amyloid plaques from clumping together in the brain. This was the largest study to date looking into whether removing amyloid plaque clusters from the brain can slow the progression of the illness.

Lecanemab is injected intravenously every two weeks. Reactions to infusion, such as fever, flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, disorientation, changed heart rate, and dyspnea, are among the side effects of lecanemab.

Users of lecanemab may also get mild tissue hemorrhages or brain oedema. Rarely, brain swelling might worsen to the point that seizures and other symptoms occur. Very rarely, brain hemorrhage can potentially be fatal.

 The FDA recommends getting an MRI of the brain before starting medication. Additionally, it recommends that while undergoing treatment, brain MRIs be used to closely monitor any indications of oedema or brain hemorrhage. Those with an APOE e4 gene variation appear to be more susceptible to these serious outcomes. 

Consult your physician if you take blood thinners or have any risk factors for brain hemorrhage. If you take blood thinners or have any other risk factors for brain bleeding, speak with your doctor before using lecanemab. Blood thinners may increase the risk of brain hemorrhage.

Further investigation is needed to determine the potential risks associated with lecanemab use. Lecanemab's possible effectiveness in treating those at risk of Alzheimer's disease, such as those who have a first-degree relative with the illness, such as a parent or brother, is being investigated in more detail.

Treating  the reversible causes of MCI

Giving up on some drugs. Certain drugs have side effects that make it harder to think clearly. It is thought that these side effects would go away if the medicine was stopped. Discuss any side effects you may be having with your doctor, and don't stop taking your medicine until you are told to. These drugs include:

  • Benzodiazepines are prescribed to address conditions such as sleeplessness, seizures, and anxiety.
  • Anticholinergics modify nervous system chemicals to treat a variety of illnesses.
  • Antihistamines are commonly used to treat allergy symptoms.
  • One popular painkiller is opioids.
  • Proton pump inhibitors are often recommended for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
  • Treating conditions with reversible origins other than MCI

Other common conditions than MCI can also make you feel less intelligent or forgetful than usual. Treating these problems can help you feel better mentally and in terms of memory. A few circumstances that could affect memory are:

  • Increased BP: Individuals with MCI are more likely to experience issues with the blood vessels inside their brains. These problems could be made worse by hypertension, which could also cause cognitive deterioration. Your doctor will monitor your blood pressure and offer suggestions to lower it if it is too high.
  • Depression: When you're depressed, forgetfulness and mental fog are common. Depression is a common occurrence among people with MCI. Treatment for depression can help with memory improvement and make adjusting to life's changes easier.
  • Sleep-related apnea: It is challenging to get a decent night's sleep with this condition because breathing stops and starts periodically while you are asleep. You may have daytime tiredness, forgetfulness, and difficulties focusing if you have sleep apnea. During the day, you can become more aware, and treatment can help these symptoms.

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Prevention Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild cognitive decline is unavoidable. Nonetheless, research indicates that certain lifestyle decisions may lower the risk of MCI. Studies suggest that the following steps may help prevent MCI:

  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Reduce the amount of air pollution you are exposed to.
  • Reduce the risk of brain injury.
  • Avoid smoking
  • Obesity, diabetes, elevated blood pressure, and depression are examples of controlled medical illnesses.
  • Maintain healthy sleeping practices and take care of any sleep-related problems.
  • Consume a nutritious, high-nutrient diet. Include fruits and vegetables along with low-saturated-fat diets.
  • Keep spending time with your loved ones.
  • Exercise most days of the week from moderate to vigorous.
  • Put on a hearing aid if you have hearing loss.
  • Play games, solve riddles, and practice your memory.

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Complications Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Dementia is more likely to arise in people with motor cortex injury (MCI), while it is not a given. Generally speaking, 1% to 3% of senior adults suffer from dementia annually. Studies show that every year, 10% to 15% of patients with mild cognitive impairment go on to develop dementia.

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