by Amy Natt, MS, CMC, CSA

Q: Can you explain the different types of dementia diagnosis? My doctor said I have “mild cognitive impairment.” Is that the same as Alzheimer’s Disease?

A: There is a lot of information out there regarding dementia and the different diagnoses that might fall under that umbrella. When you are researching or reading to gain more insight, make sure it is coming from a credible source. There are national and state Alzheimer’s Associations that offer good information. Your doctor should also be able to recommend some literature that will help you better understand your diagnosis. It is okay to ask questions; just make sure to make notes and ask for answers in writing, so that you can refer back to them. Also, consider how the diagnosis was made; did you go to a doctor or clinic specializing in memory disorders? What type of testing was done? If you want a second opinion or feel more testing would be helpful, ask for it. 

Generally, dementia refers to some type of disruption to mental processes, often a decline in mental ability caused by injury or disease. However, some types of reversible dementia can also be caused by deficiencies, medication side effects, infections etc. This is why it is very important to get a full evaluation. According to the Mayo Clinic, the types of progressive dementias include:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Mixed dementia

Other linked disorders include:

  • Huntington’s disease
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

And Dementia-like conditions that could be reversible include:

  • Infections and immune disorders
  • Metabolic problems
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Medication side effects
  • Subdural hematomas
  • Poisoning
  • Brain tumors
  • Normal-pressure hydrocephalus

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is the stage between expected cognitive decline and normal aging. It can involve changes in memory, language, thinking and judgment.  So, it would be a possible precursor to developing Alzheimer’s Disease, but not a certainty. Now that you have been diagnosed with MCI, it is important to monitor.

Maintain open communication with your doctor. Keep a journal and note any symptoms you might be experiencing. Together you can determine the best course of treatment. There are books and support groups for those experiencing memory impairment. Connecting with others who share a similar diagnosis may be very helpful to build the support you need and develop coping techniques. You are not alone in this journey. Continue to ask questions and seek solutions that make each day the best it can be.