If you’re feeling forgetful, easily distracted, or overwhelmed by mundane tasks, you may be experiencing a common phenomenon known as brain fog. It has become associated with the cognitive impairment many people experience with Covid-19. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of Covid patients have some brain fog that persists or develops after their infection, and more than 65 percent of those with long Covid report neurological symptoms too.
Brain fog can also occur with Lyme disease, lupus, and multiple sclerosis, after cancer treatment. And it can happen after several sleepless nights while taking medications or with jet lag. You may also experience a form of it after a big meal, during stressful periods of life, or during pregnancy or menopause.
Should you see a doctor?
Brain fog can be worrisome no matter how you get it. If your symptoms exist for several weeks, you should schedule an appointment with a neurologist for a medical evaluation.
Research shows that brain fog can affect some people for months. It tends to affect skills that are essential for planning, organizing information, following directions, and multitasking, among other things.
Many clinicians prefer to use the term “cognitive impairment”. Brain fog does not get progressively worse like dementia. Sometimes brain fog may be hard to diagnose because it is caused by several different factors. Someone with multiple sclerosis (MS) may experience cognitive impairment because of direct damage to their brain cells. They also may not be getting enough sleep, or be on medications that contribute to brain fog. Unlike with multiple sclerosis, damage to brain cells is much rarer in Covid-19.
Studies show that patients with persistent cognitive impairment after Covid-19 have high levels of inflammatory markers in their blood and cerebrospinal fluid.
What can I do to clear up long covid brain fog?
You may want to start with writing notes and setting alarms so that you don’t miss any appointments. Take breaks during projects to help maintain focus. Physical activity can help improve your ability to focus, as well as increase neural connectivity and memory formation in the brain. If you don’t feel up for rigorous workouts, try going for a walk outside. Make sure you stay hydrated and eat a variety of foods high in vitamins and antioxidants. Also, studies have shown that maintaining a social network helps enhance intellectual stimulation and improves brain health.
Make sure you get plenty of rest, which is easier said than done for patients with long Covid. Take measures to relax your mind at night. Turn off your phones and create a restful environment.
Dr. Gelblum will be presenting a Facebook LIVE presentation about brain fog on October 12th at https://www.facebook.com/FCNeurology
Contact a Neurologist
If you or a loved one is suffering from brain fog, you can schedule an appointment for a medical evaluation with a neurologist at First Choice Neurology. We also offer a face-to-face chat with a board-certified neurologist at Neuro2Go.com. Neuro2Go is great for folks who have never been to a neurologist and need up-to-the-minute information. Our neurologists will give you answers and provide next-step recommendations.