MONDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) — New guidelines for diagnosing the mental decline that can come with several diseases of aging may create confusion among doctors and patients about who has early Alzheimer’s disease and who simply has mild cognitive impairment, a new report warns.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a mental decline in its earliest stages that’s not a normal part of aging. Under previous guidelines, a patient was considered to have MCI if he or she had marked, but mild, memory problems but was otherwise functioning normally, explained Dr. John Morris, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Recently, the U.S. National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association convened a work group to update criteria for MCI. Their revised guidelines cast a wider net for what qualifies. “As MCI was studied further, it was found that people with MCI often had other impairments in reasoning, visual-spatial skills and attention,” Morris said.
Under the new guidelines, people with MCI can have also have problems doing daily activities, such as driving without getting disoriented, remembering to pay bills and paying the proper amount, and cooking safely. People can have MCI even if they depend on aids or assistance to complete those tasks.
Previously, what distinguished MCI from dementia was that ability to function, but the new guidelines blur the distinction, Morris noted.