Brain fog. It is a difficult and frustrating thing to… Wait, what were we talking about?
If you have a chronic medical condition like fibromyalgia, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and other issues, this is probably a familiar feeling for you. I know it is for me. I cannot tell you how many times I have lost myself mid-thought or lost track of what I was doing or where I was going.
It can be infuriating!
The worst part is, brain fog is difficult to define, more difficult to diagnose, and even trickier to get under control. That leaves many people frustrated and feeling hopeless.
Here, we’ll talk a little bit about what brain fog is, why so many of us deal with it, and how you can manage the symptoms. As always, be sure to discuss anything you are experiencing with your doctor before deciding on a course of treatment!
What is Brain Fog?
So, what exactly is brain fog? Also sometimes called “brain fatigue”, this is not a standalone medical condition, but a symptom of other diseases or conditions. It can also be the result of medications or other changes in lifestyle.
In short, brain fog refers to a “foggy” feeling and diminished cognitive function. This can range from mild and slightly annoying to serious and detrimental to everyday life. For some sufferers, it can even be dangerous.
This issue can impact memory, clarity of thought, focus, concentration, and more. It is no wonder so many people who suffer from brain fog feel desperate to find a fix.
Who Gets Brain Fog?
Brain fog is something that can happen to people who suffer from a number of different medical conditions, as well as to those without a diagnosed disease or disability.
Some of the most common conditions causing brain fog are autoimmune diseases, inflammatory conditions, and hormonal issues. Numerous chronic health conditions go hand in hand with brain fog, including but not limited to:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Lupus and other autoimmune diseases
- Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues
- Thyroid conditions
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Neuralgia and neuropathy.
- Stroke and other types of brain injury.
- Cancer and cancer treatments, including chemotherapy.
- Head or spinal injuries.
- Vertigo and conditions which cause it.
There are a lot of other reasons why you might experience brain fog that are not related to actual diseases or medical conditions. Many medications can cause problems with cognitive function, both while taking the drug and with continued use. Other reasons you might experience brain fog may include:
- Ongoing lack of sleep and resulting fatigue.
- Dietary issues, including intolerance, allergies, or insufficient nutrition.
- Hormone changes, including menstruation.
- Insufficient blood flow or oxygenation.
- Heavy metal exposure.
- Chronic stress.
- Chronic dehydration.
- Regular use of drugs or alcohol.
Basically, any illnesses, injuries, or major changes that happen to the body can also create cognitive changes – and, therefore, brain fog.
Concerns Raised by COVID-19
Therre are already a lot of conditions that can cause brain fog. Now, doctors are finding that people who have dealt with COVID-19 are dealing with bouts of the fuzzy state of mind.
Some people deal with brain fog during the peak of their symptoms. People who have had the flu or a bad cold or other virus probably know what that feels like. You are already sick – who cares if you can think straight?
The problem is, like many other lasting impacts, science is increasingly finding ongoing brain fog to be a symptom of so-called “long COVID”. This means that people who have already recovered from the primary effects of the coronavirus may continue to experience cognitive issues for days, weeks, months, or even longer.
Needless to say, the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from this and all other impacts of COVID-19 is to be vaccinated. If this is not feasible for you due to medical concerns, be sure to observe masking, social distancing, and other preventative measures.
If you have experienced COVID-19 and are now experiencing brain fog, be sure to consult your doctor. This will not only help you find ways to cope with your brain fog, it will help your medical provider gather information regarding who is experiencing this potential side effect of the disease.
Signs and Symptoms
Not sure if what you are experiencing qualifies as brain fog? Generally, brain fog is classified as mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. Some of the common signs and symptoms of this type of cognitive dysfunction include:
- Inability to focus.
- Lost train of thought.
- Becoming lost or losing your bearings easily.
- Mood swings, and more.
Typically, you will experience several of these symptoms rather than just one. If you find that the list above sounds familiar – or your friends and loved ones have noticed these symptoms from you – consult your health care team.
It probably is not a surprise that it is difficult to diagnose brain fog. That is because cognitive difficulties are traditionally hard to quantify, since they can be largely based on self-reporting from patients.
If your doctor finds reason to believe that you are experiencing cognitive difficulties, they will generally begin their diagnosis with a simple cognitive test. This is similar to a test you might take in school and is designed to examine your thinking and interaction with the world around you.
During or after this test, you may be asked to perform simple tasks. If this raises concerns, you may be asked to undergo nerve testing to examine your body and brain’s reactions to stimuli.
Additional testing may involve blood tests, MRI or CT scans, or electroencephalography, which is a test of the brain during sleep and waking function.
Another route your doctor may go in examination of your symptoms may be referral to a mental health specialist. You may see a psychologist or psychiatrist who will talk to you about your symptoms and help you create an approach to management.
All of this testing may seem stressful, but it can be necessary to determine the true origin of your brain fog. This way, you can receive the best possible treatment.
Treatments and Therapy
The treatment your healthcare team recommends for your brain fog symptoms will depend largely on the cause of those symptoms. They may include medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, or lifestyle changes – or any combination thereof.
Some simple approaches you can take while you wait for your appointment with your provider include:
- Eating a balanced diet. Nutrition and gut health are both important in balancing hormones.
- Getting enough sleep. Get plenty of rest at night and take naps if you need to.
- Do not wear restrictive clothing. Blood flow and oxygenation may be difficult if you wear uncomfortable, restrictive clothing regularly.
- Take note of potential side effects that may be part of your current medication routine which could be the cause of your cognitive fatigue.
Be sure that you consult a medical professional before you choose a course of treatment for your brain fog symptoms. This includes over-the-counter supplements and lifestyle changes. Ensure that they will not cause more problems for you by discussing them with your doctor, first!
Do you deal with brain fog? How do you cope? Sharing your thoughts and experiences is a great way to help other people find solutions!
This is a great blog packed with so much information and I love the great tips.. I don’t have illnesses but I know alot that do. I will share thank you.
Thank you so much! So glad you enjoyed stopping by!