brain fog
brain fog

Understanding Brain Fog: Your Questions Answers

Posted on March 27, 2024 by Suzanna Mazur

Brain fog is an increasingly common symptom that people are becoming more familiar with – especially as the result of Long COVID infections. And while it might be something more people are talking about, there is still a lot to be understood about it from a medical point of view. Here, Brad Merker, PhD, a neuropsychologist for Henry Ford Health, answers some questions about brain fog and its effects:

Q: What is brain fog?

Dr. Merker: Brain fog isn’t a medical condition, but rather a symptom of a condition. Suffice if to say, if you are experiencing what people are calling “brain fog”, there’s another health issue that is responsible.

There is still a lot for researchers to learn about brain fog – like indicators on why some people experience it and others don’t, or what part of the brain it affects.

Q: What does brain fog feel like?

Dr. Merker: Research shows up that brain fog might mean something different from person to person. Commonly it is described as:

  • Difficulty focusing/feeling distracted
  • Memory issues
  • Communication issues/trouble finding the right words when speaking
  • Cloudiness/feeling groggy
  • Forgetfulness
  • Feeling like your thoughts are scattered
  • General numbness

Understanding what brain fog means to a patient can help health experts determine what condition could be underlying the brain fog.

Q: Is brain fog a sign of dementia or memory loss?

Dr. Merker: Not usually. We don’t use brain fog to describe the memory issues associated with dementia. Instead, brain fog might be an accompanying symptom of other health conditions such as:

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Q: Does brain dog have a long-term effect on your brain?

Dr. Merker: It isn’t likely that brain fog will impact the brain long term, but the health condition associated with the symptom might. For example, we know things like sleep apnea, sleep deprivation and depression can directly impact the brain. That is why it is important to talk with your doctor if your experiencing symptoms.

Be careful about over-researching your brain fog issues, though. Hyper-focusing on your health and stressing out about symptoms isn’t good for you either.

Q: When should you see your doctor for brain fog?

Dr. Merker: Talk with your doctor as soon as brain fog impacts your daily activities. If you aren’t completing normal tasks as efficiently or as safety as you should, it is best to make an appointment with your primary care provider.

When you talk with your doctor about your brain fog, try to use descriptors to define what you are feeling. Because brain fog might look different in each case, this insight will help your provider determine the best course of action.

Q: How is brain fog treated?

Dr. Merker: Because brain fog is a symptom and not a condition, the best way to treat it is to treat the root cause of it.

To treat, your provider may order a workup of your overall health to rule out nutritional or hormonal imbalances or an underlying infection as the cause. If those lab results identify the issue, your doctor can work with you to manage. Your doctor may also look at the medications you are taking to see if those should be reevaluated. If additional evaluation is needed, they may refer you to a psychologist, neurologist, oncologist or other specialist depending on what your experience with brain fog has been coupled with your unique heath issues.

Q: Does brain fog go away on its own?

Dr. Merker: In some cases, yes. The biggest factor with brain fog is the contributing cause of it in the first place. Your Long COVID may ago away, freeing you of related symptoms. You may start eating different, which could impact your nutrition intake and vitamin deficiencies. If your brain fog is caused by depression and you start seeing a therapist for your mental health, that fogginess may go away.

In other instances, the root cause of your brain fog might be something that you doctor can treat or help you manage. However, it might not be something that goes away forever. There’s still a lot more for us to learn about brain fog and as more people report the symptom, it encourages more research to be done so that we can understand this concept better.

Reviewed by Dr. Brad Merker, a neuropsychologist with Henry Ford Health. He sees patients at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, Henry Ford Medical Center in Dearborn and Henry Ford Health – 1 Ford Place in Detroit.
Categories : FeelWell

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