Possible Early Dementia
Facts on Possible Early Dementia
Dementia is a serious brain disorder that interferes with a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks.
Alzheimer's disease usually begins with mild, slowly worsening memory loss. Many older people fear that they have Alzheimer's disease because they can’t find their eyeglasses or remember someone’s name.
MCI is a transitional zone between age-related memory loss and Alzheimer's disease. A person is often said to have MCI when he or she has Alzheimer's-like memory loss while the mind remains "sharp" otherwise.
There are other types of MCI, but the type involving short-term memory loss is the most common. Medical professionals call this type “amnestic” MCI. Amnestic has the same root as the word amnesia, meaning memory loss.
We are still learning about MCI. We don’t know how common it is, for example.
From studies in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease or amnestic MCI, we know that the changes are similar. Therefore, amnestic MCI is generally considered to be due to an early form of Alzheimer's disease.
What Causes Possible Early Dementia?
We do not know exactly what causes MCI. We do know that most people with MCI eventually develop Alzheimer's disease. Like Alzheimer's disease, MCI is thought to be linked to abnormal deposits of certain proteins in the brain. Having low levels of certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters is another feature of MCI and Alzheimer's disease.
A small number of cases of MCI are related not to Alzheimer's disease but to other causes of dementia. These include stroke, Parkinson disease, head injury, depression or extreme stress, drug interactions or side effects, or other medical conditions such as liver diseases or hormone disturbances. The number of conditions that can result in MCI and dementia is large.
The speed with which symptoms develop is often a clue to the cause of the MCI. MCI related to Alzheimer's disease develops gradually in most cases. MCI of some other causes may develop more quickly.
Last Reviewed 11/21/2017
Rodrigo O Kuljis, MD
Nestor Galvez-Jimenez, MD
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Helmi L Lutsep, MD
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Perhaps the most important challenge in treating dementia is identifying cases (albeit uncommon) of reversible dementia such as chronic drug intoxication, vitamin deficiencies (B-12 and folate), subdural hematoma(s), major depression (causing forgetfulness), normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), and hypothyroidism.