COVID-19 introduced us to a whole new world of lockdowns and social distancing. Not just that, it exposed us to a wide range of new and unusual symptoms. One such symptom is brain fog. As strange as it may sound, it is real and can be caused by several other factors besides the SARs-CoV-2 virus. In an interaction with the OnlyMyHealth team, Dr Keni Ravish Rajiv, Consultant Neurologist and Epileptologist, Aster RV Hospital, discusses what a brain fog may feel like and factors that can cause it.
What A Brain Fog Feels Like
“Brain fog is not a medical term but used to describe a range of symptoms,” said Dr Rajiv. Some of the characteristics include:
- Poor concentration
- Feeling confused
- Thinking more slowly than usual
- Fuzzy thoughts
- Loss of words
- Mental fatigue
According to the doctor, brain fog can feel similar to the effects of sleep deprivation or stress. It should however not be confused with dementia as it does not mean structural damage to the brain.
COVID And Brain Fog
Some of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. However, in some cases, a SARs-CoV-2 infection could lead to neurological symptoms including brain fog. In fact, a systematic review published in the Springer Nature Comprehensive Clinical Medicine found that 1 in 3 COVID-19 patients experienced cognitive deficits for weeks or even months with a range of symptoms, including brain fog.
While the cause of COVID-related brain fog is not clearly known, a study published in the journal Cancer Cell found elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines in the fluid surrounding the brains of COVID-19 patients, weeks after their infection. Cytokines are proteins that help control inflammation in the body.
Other Possible Causes Of Brain Fog Other Than COVID
COVID-19 is not the only cause of brain fog. There are other factors that can lead to the neurological symptom. Some of the common reasons include:
- Lack of sleep
- Spending too much time on the computer
“On a cellular level, brain fog is believed to be caused by high levels of inflammation and changes to hormones that determine your mood, energy and focus,” said Dr Rajiv. Certain health conditions, including anaemia, diabetes, migraine, hypothyroidism, autoimmune diseases, like lupus, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, dehydration, and Alzheimer’s disease, can also lead to brain fog.
How to treat brain fog?
While people usually recover from brain fog, there are certain ways to improve the symptoms:
- Limit time on the computer and mobile phone – remind yourself to take a break
- Positive thinking as it reduces stress
- Switch to a healthy diet
- Get enough sleep, preferably 7-8 hours a day
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid alcohol, smoking, and drinking coffee in the afternoon
Brain fog is a condition that has existed from time immemorial. However, only recently, with the onset of COVID-19, has it been recognised. It is important to note that it can occur due to several factors and identifying the cause is key in treating the condition.