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How Is Mild Cognitive Impairment Diagnosed?

Mild cognitive impairment is the condition with very mild, but demonstratable loss of memory and other cognitive functions. However, the routine life of the patient is not severely altered, but the condition should be diagnosed to stop further progression of the disease. There is no recommended diagnostic test for mild cognitive impairment, but the physician can do it through physical and neurological evaluation and mental testing.[1]

How Is Mild Cognitive Impairment Diagnosed?

How Is Mild Cognitive Impairment Diagnosed?

As mild cognitive impairment has very mild symptoms, the condition does not have any specific diagnostic procedures. However, the condition needs to be diagnosed at an early stage as it carries a significant risk of progressing into Alzheimer’s disease.[2] The physician will try to identify the disease on the basis of physical examination and various neurological tests. Further, lab tests and imaging techniques are also used for diagnosing mild cognitive impairment. Following are the various diagnostic procedures used for diagnosing mild cognitive impairment:

Physical Evaluation. Your physician tries to find the exact cause of the symptoms experienced by you through various questions and evaluate your condition on the basis of your input. The doctor will try to identify the status of your memory and the problem with other mental functions. The doctor will also try to identify the degradation in your memory in the past few months. The doctor may also ask you the questions regarding the effect on life due to your symptoms. The doctor, during the physical examination, may also perform neurological testing, on the basis of which he tries to correlate the condition of your mental health in relation to your age. The doctor will try to rule out the presence of dementia as the condition of mild cognitive impairment does not cause dementia. The doctors may ask you about the medication currently administered as some medications also cause cognitive impairment.[3]

Neurological Examination. Mild cognitive impairment also reduces cognitive functions as well as reduces the reflexes of the body. Mild cognitive impairment reduces the capacity of the person to learn, think and taking logical decisions. The doctor, during the neurological examination, tests the working capacity of the brain. This helps the doctor in identifying the presence of certain other diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and plaque. The neurological examination also includes walking and coordination and eye movements. Through neurological examination, the doctor also rules out significant impairment in occupational functioning.[4]

Imaging Techniques. Although there is no recommendation for imaging testing in the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, imaging testing helps identify the cause of the disease and also provides information about the progression of the disease. Magnetic Resonance Imaging is done to diagnose the mild cognitive impairment in patients who have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The MRI also helps in identifying the ventricular enlargement and hippocampal atrophy, which are the markers for mild cognitive impairment. [5]Further, the imaging techniques also help in ruling out the presence of other serious conditions. Fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) is also done to analyze the development of mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease.[6]

Mental Testing. Mental testing is done to analyze the level of memory and cognitive impairment. The doctor may ask the simple question related to memory and also the process of performing the normal task. Further, detailed mental testing of the patient is done by checking the decision-making ability of the patient in a given situation.

Lab Testing. Lab testing is done to identify altered levels of various parameters which are responsible for reversed mild cognitive impairment. These parameters include electrolytes, thyroxine hormone, insulin resistance or blood sugar level, complete blood count, vitamin B12, calcium, and folates. Mild cognitive impairment may also be due to infection and kidney diseases. Some of the rarer cause of mild cognitive impairment such as liver function, syphilis and HIV are also tested.[7]


Diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment is done though ruling out the possibility of other neurological disorder such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and stroke. Various procedures for diagnosis include the physical evaluation, lab tests, mental testing, and imaging techniques.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 29, 2022

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