7 Causes of 'Brain Fog'
- Likely Culprits, and What to Do About ThemThe term “brain fog” might not sound like a medical term. But it's a very real thing. It's a common way to talk about the memory problems, lack of focus, forgetfulness, and fatigue that come with some medical conditions and treatments. Here are seven common situations that can have brain fog as a side effect.
- Rheumatoid ArthritisMost people think of joint pain when it comes to arthritis. Medical experts, though, now know that conditions that cause chronic inflammation—like rheumatoid arthritis—often have another effect: They cause brain fog. Fortunately, the drugs that are good at treating rheumatoid arthritis also seem to help get rid of the symptoms of brain fog.
- LupusSome people with lupus have trouble with memory, thinking and expressing themselves. They can feel "foggy" and confused sometimes, too. One theory is that the disease affects blood flow to the brain, which is known to cause cognitive problems. Or, like rheumatoid arthritis, it could be linked to inflammation. Medications and counseling often help.
- FibromyalgiaThe most common symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic widespread pain. But, people who have it often complain of symptoms like forgetfulness, trouble with conversations, and short-term memory loss. Health experts aren’t quite sure why people with fibromyalgia suffer from brain fog. They suspect there's a link between chronic pain and how well the brain works.
- Chronic Fatigue SyndromeChronic fatigue syndrome affects millions of Americans. Though "fatigue" is in the name, feeling extremely tired is just one of many symptoms. People with this condition often have muscle and joint pain and problems sleeping. They also complain of brain fog—memory problems and trouble paying attention. In fact, researchers have noted people with chronic fatigue often identify this as the most troubling symptom.
- ConcussionMany causes of brain fog are somewhat mysterious. A concussion is a more obvious link. This is a head injury that directly affects the brain. Brain fog symptoms like confusion, slow thinking, memory problems, and trouble concentrating are common after a concussion. They usually get better over time. Repeated head injuries can make things worse, however. Always wear proper head protection during sports and other activities where head injuries are possible. And if you suspect a concussion in yourself or a loved one, get it checked out by a doctor to help minimize brain damage from a concussion.
- ChemotherapyMedical conditions aren’t the only contributors to brain fog. Some medicines and medical treatments can cause this mental cloudiness, too. One of the major culprits is chemotherapy. In fact, the problem is common enough among cancer patients that it has its own name: “chemo brain.” It may go away quickly or linger awhile. How bad it is also varies from person to person. But, if you experience brain fog after chemotherapy, talk with your healthcare team because help is available.
- Other MedicationsMany types of medicines can lead to confusion or fogginess. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs may do this. So can drugs that lower cholesterol and blood pressure, sleep medications, Parkinson’s drugs, drugs that combat seizures, and very strong painkillers (narcotics). Even some older types of antihistamines can cause brain fog. Most often, the mental side effects go away once you stop taking the drug. Your doctor will want to know if you are experiencing these types of side effects from a medication, prescription or not. Ask your doctor if another option might work for you.
7 Causes of 'Brain Fog'