By Maci Blommel
What is brain fog?
Like in nature, fog impacts your ability to see while driving, and brain fog affects your brain’s ability to process information. A symptom, not a medical condition, many experience brain fog across multiple diagnoses, disorders, and conditions. Brain fog can impact one’s quality of life and ability to participate in desired activities. It may cause confusion and disorientation, impacting your memory and making it hard to organize your thoughts. Brain fog can be understood or experienced as mental or cognitive fatigue.
A few common causes of brain fog include:
- Brain injuries
- Hormonal changes (i.e., pregnancy and menopause)
- Autoimmune diseases (i.e., Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis)
- Cancer and cancer treatment
- Lack of sleep
- Dehydration and lack of nutrients in your body
- Viral infections (i.e., Covid-19)
- Increased stress
- Many more
Parts of your brain impacted by brain fog may include:
–Prefrontal cortex: the area in charge of executive functions, short-term and working memory. Executive functions include organization, planning, problem-solving, attention, and information processing.
–Limbic system: your brain’s emotional regulation system and memory formation center.
–Major relay centers: such as the thalamus and basal ganglia which relay information from your body and brain to control movement and sensory intake.
–Vision centers: your brain’s ability to take in and interpret the world through vision requires a lot of energy which could be impacted by brain fog.
Common symptoms of brain fog:
- Lack of mental clarity
- Concentration difficulties
- Inability to focus
- Sluggish thinking
- Memory difficulties
- Vision problems (i.e., blurred or double vision)
Brain fog after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be experienced in many different stages of the recovery process. Brain fog can be experienced days, weeks, or months after an injury and can last for an extended period or as a short-term symptom. Talk to your doctor if you suspect or feel like you experience brain fog. They may recommend occupational, speech, or physical therapy if it significantly affects your daily activities.
Tips for combating and preventing brain fog from impacting your daily life:
- Get 8-9 hours of sleep per night
- Manage your stress
- Physical exercise, at least 30 minutes of activity a day
- Partake in leisure or enjoyable activities
- Keep a schedule or calendar for important dates
- Eat a balanced diet
- Drink appropriate amounts of liquids such as water
- Medication and condition management: monitor blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and heart rate as needed, and take medications appropriately
Taking care of your body and mind is essential to help combat brain fog symptoms. Many different aspects of your life can lead to feelings of confusion, foggy memory, poor organization, and more. Brain fog does not have to affect your ability to complete daily tasks and enjoy life; learn how to manage your brain fog symptoms by talking to a healthcare professional.
Maci Blommel is an Occupational Therapy Student at Origami Rehabilitation. Origami is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing comprehensive rehabilitation for children, adolescents, and adults with neurological, developmental, mental health, and orthopedic conditions through their residential and outpatient programs. Learn more about Origami at OrigamiRehab.org or by calling 517-336-6060.