Covid-19 and Brain Fog

Hopefully you haven’t had Covid-19. If you have, then I hope you aren’t among the group with persistent health problems. They have come to be known as “long haulers”. Some of the most common symptoms they describe six months after COVID-19 infection are confusion, fatigue and memory loss — brain fog. It impedes their ability to work and even carry out regular daily activities. It isn’t only elderly patients. Nor is it only those with the most severe COVID-19 cases although both make it more likely. Even some previously healthy young adults and people who experienced only mild COVID symptoms describe these problems.

What is Covid Brain?

This brain fog has become known as Covid brain. But what is brain fog? Most of us have experienced occasional, brief episodes. It might have been due to lack of sleep or a particular medicine. Maybe you had headache and difficulty concentrating or dizziness and fatigue. You got some sleep or the medicine wore off or you recovered from some illness. Your brain fog cleared and you were able to get on with your life… unless it was something more serious… and you weren’t able to return to your usual activities.

That is happening to many people with COVID-19. Even after recovering from the fever, chest pain, coughing and difficulty breathing they still don’t feel fully well. They have short term memory loss, inability to focus. They feel confused and overwhelmed. Some forget names of people and common objects. It seems to occur in about a third of patients who were hospitalized but has also been noted in those who had mild cases that did not require hospitalization.

There can be language difficulties, poor memory and difficulty comprehending. Loss of focus can negatively impact quality of life, work and productivity. Other factors that can make it very hard to function throughout the day are forgetfulness, lack of motivation and a feeling of grogginess. 

At first the symptoms were thought that the coronavirus was causing an infection in the brain but no virus was found in patients’ cerebrospinal fluid. Instead scientists have found persistent inflammation and high cytokine levels. Cytokines are proteins involved in inflammation. They are released from immune cells and affect how cells interact and communicate with each other. They play key roles in regulating the immune system. They can help your body kill cancer. Unfortunately overproduction can cause cytokine storm and prolonged inflammation. Current thinking is that it is inflammatory cells and chemicals that enter the brain contributing to Covid brain.

What should you do?

See your doctor. Even if you ‘ve had COVID-19 it is important to rule out other medical conditions and treat whatever can be treated.

What else can you do?

Keep a diary or journal of your symptoms. Note when you’re having a particular symptom, how severe it is, how long it lasts, anything else going on in your life.

Manage any underlying health issues, like hypertension and diabetes.

Get help for anxiety, depression or PTSD.

Stop smoking and avoid alcohol.

Eat a healthy diet

Get quality sleep.

Be patient with yourself.

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