COVID-19-related “brain fog,” people are using the term to describe the constellation of symptoms such as short-term memory loss, poor attention span and fatigue that plagues up to 20% of COVID-19 patients weeks after they have recovered from typical COVID-19 symptoms—such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. Researchers think these cognitive effects are a byproduct of inflammatory processes within the brain that occur microscopically.
We all experience this feeling from time to time. Perhaps you couldn’t think clearly when you were sick with the flu or another illness. Maybe you were jet-lagged and your thinking was sluggish because it felt like it was 2 AM. Or perhaps you took an antihistamine or another medication that made your thinking fuzzy for a few hours. In each case you probably just waited to get back to normal, whether that meant recovering from your illness, adjusting to the new time zone, or waiting for the side effects of the medication to wear off.
The problem is there’s no diagnostic test for “brain fog,” and the condition isn’t visible on brain imaging exams. Instead, patients and doctors rely on the following symptoms to determine whether a patient is suffering from post-COVID-19 cognitive impairments:
Decreased attention span
Poor executive function
In rare and severe cases, patients may develop post-COVID-19 psychosis ranging from hallucinations and paranoia to severe mood disorders.
Causes of brain fog
The new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, known as SARS-CoV-2, is thought to typically spread through close contact with someone who has the infection. Respiratory droplets from that person can enter your body through your nose, mouth, or eyes.
Once in your system, the coronavirus enters cells through an enzyme called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor. The virus is neuro-invasive, meaning that it can enter your brain tissue.
Numerous case studiesTrusted Source have found that some people who’ve had COVID-19 develop complications such as altered consciousness or encephalopathy. Encephalopathy is a general term that refers to damage or disease of your brain.
A studyTrusted Source from January 2021 found increased levels of inflammatory cytokines in the fluid surrounding the brains of people weeks after their COVID-19 infection. Cytokines are molecules produced by your immune system that encourage inflammation.
Perform aerobic exercise. You may need to start slow, perhaps just two to three minutes a few times a day. While there is no established “dose” of exercise to improve brain health, it’s generally recommended you work toward 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Eat Mediterranean-style meals. A healthy diet including olive oil, fruits and vegetables, nuts and beans, and whole grains has been proven to improve thinking, memory. and brain health.
Avoid alcohol and drugs. Give your brain the best chance to heal by avoiding substances which can adversely affect it.
Sleep well. Sleep is a time when the brain and body can clear out toxins and work toward healing. Make sure you give your body the sleep it needs.
Participate in social activities. We are social animals. Not only do social activities benefit our moods, but they help our thinking and memory as well.
Pursue other beneficial activities, including engaging in novel, cognitively stimulating activities; listening to music; practicing mindfulness; and keeping a positive mental attitude.
During brain fog, one can suffer from depression and can have difficulty concentrating. Some can also suffer from loss of appetite. Patients suffering from brain fog can also need to take proper counselling to overcome it.
While in brain fog long COVID, patients can also suffer from insomnia, irritability, lack of understanding, and clear thinking, sometimes a person can also stammer while thinking. In these cases, the person should be taken to the doctor’s consultation.