Information about Memory Disorders

Mild cognitive impairment falls somewhere between age-associated memory impairment and early dementia. People with mild cognitive impairment are more forgetful than normal for their age, but they don't experience other cognitive problems associated with dementia, such as disorientation or confusion about routine activities. They are generally able to live independently but may be less active socially.

Many experts believe that mild cognitive impairment may be an early warning sign of memory disorders later in life. In fact, studies show that 10 to 15 percent of people with mild cognitive impairment progress to Alzheimer's disease each year, compared with a rate of 1 to 2 percent a year for the general older population.

Large-scale studies are testing whether therapies can halt or slow the conversion from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's disease. By intervening at the first signs of memory trouble, doctors hope to delay Alzheimer's disease or prevent it altogether.

But so far, research results have been discouraging. For example, in a recent study of people with mild cognitive impairment, researchers found no significant benefit from early intervention with the Alzheimer's drug donepezil (Aricept) or vitamin E.

Publication Review By: Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H.

Published: 09 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015