What is lupus brain fog?
Is this image something you can relate to? Have you been forgetful lately? Are you having trouble concentrating, remembering things, or feeling detached or fuzzy? If so, you may be experiencing a cognitive dysfunction called “brain fog” (cognitive refers to the thinking skills that allow you to understand, process and respond to information.) This can be incredibly frustrating to you and to those around you causing your self-confidence to fade and even strain the relationships you have with family and friends. Having a brain fog can also negatively affect your ability to work at your highest level and successfully manage your daily life.
A brain fog can have many different origins such as mental illness or other diseases such as lupus. SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus) can affect many organs in the body, including the brain, thus causing this cognitive dysfunction or brain fog. Many who have been living with lupus for awhile are very familiar with the term “lupus fog” while others who are newly diagnosed do not yet understand that their sudden forgetfulness, or trouble making sense of once common things.
What are the signs of a brain fog?
Lupus brain fog can manifest differently for each individual. Some of the most common problems that are experienced because of this cognitive dysfunction are:
- The inability to pay attention
- The inability to remember or recall information
- Difficulty with problem solving, organizing information, and critical thinking
- Trouble with quickly coordinating hand-eye movements
How can these problems affect daily life?
As mentioned above, everybody will experience a fog differently. These fogs may come and go along with a lupus flare, or the fog may be a consistent battle regardless of a flare. Here are the three main ways in which a brain fog can affect daily life:
Memory- Many with lupus fog have difficulty recalling conversations, tasks, or appointments. They find that they continually misplace items of importance like paperwork, bills, keys, phone, etc. Problems and consequences may arise as you forget meetings, doctor visits, or social events. They may forget things people have said to them or that they, themselves, have told someone, necessitating the need for repetitive questions or comments. Friends, family, and co-workers may become increasingly frustrated, casting personal blame and judgement, not understanding that this is a medical condition, a cognitive disorder.
Concentration- Many with a brain fog complain of having difficulty following directions, concentrating when they read, and trouble learning new tasks or absorbing information. They also report not having the ability to successfully multi-task, having problems focusing on more than one thing at a time. The lack of ability to concentrate or pay attention can be a difficult symptom to deal with for anyone, but can be devastating to a student, or to someone in a professional setting.
Thinking skills and the ability to process information- Reaction times may be slower, causing lags in conversation as the sufferer works to register and understand the information that is being shared. This also manifests in the inability to problem solve, plan, organize, and think critically. These skills that many take for granted can be very challenging for someone in a lupus fog. Simple tasks like planning for and preparing a meal can overwhelm someone with this type of condition. The sufferer may appear less intelligent, capable, or credible, thereby negatively affecting family, school, work, and community relationships.
What can I do to cope with a lupus brain fog?
The first thing to do if you are experiencing any of the above listed symptoms is to discuss them with your medical provider. It is important to give them the opportunity to discover the root cause of the cognitive dysfunction, ruling out any potential adverse reactions to medication or other, more serious conditions.
For many, the lupus fog is just another troubling manifestation of the disease. While there is no medical treatment for a brain fog, there are several coping strategies that could help with the frustrating symptoms of the condition. We created this graphic compiling a top ten listing of the most helpful tips for coping with a lupus brain fog, contributed to us by our active online lupus community. Please feel free to share, pin, or tweet it! You can also view it on our Pinterest page.
The good news!
How can there be good news, you ask? Well, lupus fog or brain fog, does not typically get progressively worse, like other cognitive dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, these cognitive issues will probably come and go, or intensify and lessen, as lupus flares are also known to do. There are also some medical professionals who specialize in, and can help teach ways to work around the cognitive symptoms. They include:
- Vocational Counselors
- Cognitive Therapists
- Occupational Therapists
*It is important that the medical professional you choose has experience helping those with concentration and memory problems, so ask questions and be your own best advocate. It is also important to note that medical coverage may be more limited for these specialists.
Living with a cognitive dysfunction like brain fog, can make you lose self-confidence and lower your self-esteem. The most taxing part of having these fogs can be the stress and depression that may follow along with them that affect your daily life. If you have the right tools, it is much easier to learn to cope and live with this condition . Please see our blog on Lupus and Depression for some great tips on taking care of your mind, body, and spirit.
We have covered what a lupus fog is, why it is happening, and hopefully have provided some tools to improve the quality of your life while living in a lupus fog. Remember to be kind to yourself. Remember that it is not you, it should not define you; it is just another lupus symptom. Follow the top ten coping tips above and surround yourself with the personal and professional support you need. This will help you start to get back your confidence, feel more in control, and hopefully feel better.
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*All resources provided by Molly’s Fund are for informational purposes only and should be used as a guide or for supplemental information, not to replace the advice of a medical professional. The personal views do not necessarily encompass the views of the organization, but the information has been vetted as a relevant resource. We encourage you to be your strongest advocate and always contact your medical provider with any specific questions or concerns.