Difference between Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment

Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) are both cognitive disorders that affect an individual's ability to think, remember, and perform daily activities. However, there are significant differences between the two conditions that set them apart.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a progressive brain disease that causes problems with memory, judgement, and other cognitive abilities over time.

Symptoms − Forgetfulness is a hallmark symptom of dementia, and it worsens dramatically over time. It's also possible for people to go crazy and stop believing in the world around them. Delusions, paranoia, and maybe even hallucinations are all possible. People's personalities might shift, and they could start behaving in strange ways.

Diagnosis − A mental status assessment is required to establish the extent of the dysfunction. Dementia patients are also required to take a memory test. A person's ability to benefit from imaging testing depends on the underlying reason of their dementia.

Causes − Dementia can be brought on by many different things, such as old age, genetic changes, or infections. Mental issues are a potential side effect of syphilis-causing bacterial infection. Dementia is an invariable consequence of exposure to prions like those responsible for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Dementia can occur from both Huntington's disease and Parkinson's disease genes. Dementia can also be caused by issues with the brain's blood vessels.

Risk factors and complications − Factors that increase vulnerability include age, certain genetic predispositions (such as those for Huntington's disease or the aberrant protein linked with Alzheimer's disease), and other medical conditions. Dementia risk also increases in the presence of traumatic brain damage. When the sickness worsens over time, the complication almost always results in death.

Prevention and treatment − Preventing dementia due to hereditary or unknown causes is difficult, if not impossible. Nonetheless, preventing the spread of diseases that might lead to syphilis or prion disease may be useful. Dementia is progressive and cannot be cured, however prescription medications can assist with symptoms like memory loss.

What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

With mild cognitive impairment (MCI), memory and thought processes are impaired, but not to the same extreme as in dementia.

Symptoms − Some symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) include forgetfulness, impaired judgement, and getting lost in familiar places. They are less severe than those of dementia, and the affected individual is usually aware that they are struggling.

Diagnosis − Although there is currently no diagnostic test for MCI, doctors do employ a set of factors to determine whether or not a patient is at risk for developing the condition. The criteria include evaluating the patient's memory, mental condition, and everyday functioning, as well as determining if the patient has deteriorated. Although MCI can progress to dementia, the physician must nonetheless rule out that possibility.

Causes − Mild cognitive impairment can occur for a number of different reasons, including the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease or Lewy body dementia. Reduced blood supply to areas of the brain can cause some damage even in mild strokes.

Risk factors and complications − In old age, various diseases and disorders become manifest, dementia being one of them. One of the risk factors for cognitive decline is the existence of an Alzheimer's disease-linked variant of the APOE gene. A person's chance of developing memory and concentration issues as they age increases with the prevalence of risk factors such as smoking, inactivity, obesity, and hyperlipidemia/hypertension. A more serious problem arises if the moderate cognitive impairment progresses to dementia, which affects up to 15% of persons with such impairment.

Prevention and treatment − Some doctors prescribe cholinesterase inhibitors for patients showing signs of memory loss, however there is little evidence that these drugs actually slow the progression of MCI.

Differences: Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment

The following table highlights the major differences between Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment −



Mild Cognitive Impairment


Dementia is a chronic, progressive, and fatal brain disease that impairs one's ability to think and remember.

A person with mild cognitive impairment has some difficulty remembering or concentrating but can nevertheless function normally in daily life.

Memory and thinking

Memory loss and cognitive difficulties worsen with dementia.

Memory and thinking difficulties are quite mild in those with mild cognitive impairment.

Personality and behavior

Dementia patients frequently exhibit character shifts and unusual actions.

Persona and conduct do not alter for those with modest cognitive impairment.

General causes

Brain injury, vascular illness, infections, and some inherited conditions are only few of the numerous potential triggers of dementia.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can develop naturally with age can be an indicator of developing dementia.

Prion disease

Dementia and death are the inevitable outcomes of prion disorders.

Mild cognitive impairment is not caused by prion disease.


In conclusion, dementia and MCI are both cognitive disorders that affect an individual's ability to think, remember, and perform daily activities. However, there are significant differences between the two conditions, including the degree of cognitive impairment, rate of progression, and treatment options. Early detection and treatment can help slow the progression of the disorder and improve the quality of life.

Updated on: 10-Apr-2023


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