Subjective Cognitive Impairment (SCI)


Subjective cognitive impairment (SCI), also known as subjective memory disorder, is when a patient reports a worsening of their thinking abilities, including memory, but the decline cannot be verified by standard tests.


Patients with SCI report symptoms similar to those of mild cognitive impairment:

  • Increasing forgetfulness
  • Losing a train of thought
  • Feeling overwhelmed making decisions or planning
  • Depression

These symptoms don't often significantly affect a patient's daily activities.

Causes and Risk Factors

Because it is hard to evaluate subjective cognitive impairment through standard testing, the condition is not well understood.

Depression has been linked to cognitive impairment and memory loss. Other risk factors associated with memory loss include:


There is no specific test that can diagnose subjective cognitive impairment. When a patient reports decreased memory function, the physician will perform a physical exam and review the patient's medical history. They may also order certain diagnostic tests to rule out other conditions.

A neurological exam may be performed to test the patient's cognitive ability and their ability to perform complex routine tasks.

Imaging tools, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a Computed tomography (CT) scan, can show any damage to the structures of the brain that may be causing the patient's symptoms.

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is sometimes used to record the electrical impulses of the brain in order to determine if epilepsy is present.


Most treatments will focus on observation and management of symptoms.

If the patient has high cholesterol or high blood pressure, these will be treated through lifestyle changes and medication.

The medical team will continue to monitor the patient's memory loss, and re-evaluate the condition over time.

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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