Memory loss has long been recognized as an inevitable part of aging. Everyone experiences a “senior moment” — the inability to recall the name of an acquaintance or the items on a shopping list. With age, these memory lapses become more common.
But a sharp decline in short-term memory could be more than normal forgetfulness. It could be a symptom of a condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI). People with MCI tend to retain critical thinking and reasoning skills but experience a significant short-term memory loss. They may experience trouble remembering the names of people they meet or the flow of a conversation. They also may have an increased tendency to misplace things. They may rely more on a calendar, notes and lists but still manage their daily activities. Long-term memories tend to remain in tact.
MCI is diagnosed when there is:
- Evidence of memory impairment
- Preservation of general cognitive and functional abilities
- Absence of diagnosed dementia
Doctors believe that mild cognitive impairment may be a signal of a more serious disease on the horizon. The condition has been associated with a higher-than-normal risk of developing dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. But not all MCI patients develop dementia.
There is no proven treatment or therapy for mild cognitive impairment. As MCI may be a precursor to clinical Alzheimer’s disease, treatments proposed for Alzheimer’s disease, such as antioxidants and cholinesterase inhibitors, may be useful. However, potential treatments are still under investigation at this time.