by James Heuer, PA
In the age of COVID-19, a symptom that comes along with having contracted the virus is brain fog. This symptom of COVID-19 is comparable to the cognitive issues that traumatic brain survivors experience after their initial concussion. Brain fog, which is not a medical term but a description, can have a dramatic effect on brain injury survivors, no matter how sharp or quick-witted the person was prior.
Symptoms of brain fog occur within the first seven to ten days and will usually dissipate within three months. Sometimes brain fog can persist for a year or more. To achieve a quicker recovery from brain fog, doctors recommend immediate treatment after your concussion in order to manage it. Like TBI survivors, people recovering from COVID-19 struggle with brain fog on a daily basis with symptoms lasting weeks, or even years.
Brain fog is one of the most common symptoms examined in TBI patients. Signs to look for include slowness in thinking, trouble concentrating, or even difficulty remembering and learning new information. Short term memory loss and inability to concentrate, multitasking, and the ability to organize and plan coincide with brain fog.
Patients with a TBI typically experience brain fog either immediately post-concussion or possibly days, weeks, or months later. The common triggers for brain fog can vary from using a computer, reading a book, or seeing bright lights. Patients have described brain fog as “I feel like I’m seeing the world through a haze,” “I feel like I’m running in sand,” “I just can’t keep up,” or “I can’t process everything.”
The brain fog stems from the impact that causes the brain to smash into the skull which leads to inflammation and disruption of communication within the brain. Two main sources of brain fog are hypoactivation (inefficiency in the brain) and hyperactivation (overload). Oxygen and other resources are needed for the brain to complete a task. When inflammation or axonal shearing (tearing of the brain’s connecting nerve fibers) after a concussion occurs, regions of the brain may be blocked from getting their needed resources. This is the hypoactivation happening. Hyperactivation is what’s considered an overload, when an area of the brain is on too much or working too hard. In short, if there are areas of your brain working inefficiently or overworking, a lot of energy is being used, causing the brain to simply give up – resulting in what is called brain fog.
Healing and eliminating brain fog to live a normal day-to-day life is possible. One recommendation is to give your digestive system a rest. Intermittent fasting can stimulate brain regeneration. Exercise is good for sharper mental acuity as it promotes the release of helpful chemical messengers, as well as releasing endorphins to rejuvenate the brain. Also, sleep is important to heal. Sleep is essential to recovering from brain fog, especially with the persistent fatigue and exhaustion. Overall, TBI survivors need to have patience with themselves to lower their stress. Eventually, brain fog will subside.
James A. Heuer, PA, is a personal injury attorney helping individuals with TBI after suffering one himself. He is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.