17 March is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Day, dedicated to raising awareness about this chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system.
NOTE: This is not medical advice. It's imperative never to self-diagnose or use Google as your doctor. Doctors can be expensive, but early detection often leads to short-term care and better treatment.
MS can cause many symptoms, including fatigue, vision problems, muscle weakness, and what some refer to as "brain fog."
One of the most common symptoms of MS is brain fog. This article will explore the causes of brain fog in MS and other conditions that can cause similar symptoms.
What Is Brain Fog
COVID and SAR-2 sufferers have seen “...deficits in attention, executive functioning, language, processing speed, and memory — symptoms collectively referred to as “brain fog.” Together with increased incidence of anxiety and depression…”—The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
“Definition: Brain Fog — It is an umbrella term used to describe the constellation of cognitive function impairment such as confusion, short-term memory loss, dizziness, and inability to concentrate.”—Krishnan et al., J Health Serv Psychol, 2022 Garg et al., Int J Gen Med, 2021.
MS: Signs & Symptoms
MS is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. In people with MS, the immune system attacks the protective covering of the nerves, leading to inflammation and damage.
This damage can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Vision problems
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness or tingling in the limbs
- Balance problems
- Difficulty with coordination and walking
- Cognitive problems, including brain fog
Brain fog is a common symptom of MS, and it can be frustrating for those who experience it. Brain fog can cause difficulty with concentration, memory, and problem-solving. It can also lead to feelings of confusion and disorientation.
Although brain fog is one of the symptoms of MS, other conditions cause these same or similar symptoms. You must bring these symptoms to your doctor for a correct diagnosis.
Medications & Supplements
Brain fog can be caused by medications and supplements. Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause cognitive side effects, including brain fog.
Some common medications that can cause brain fog to include:
- Muscle relaxants
- Pain relievers, including opioids
- Blood pressure medications
- Sleeping pills
In addition to medications, some supplements can also cause brain fog. For example, high doses of vitamin B6 can cause cognitive side effects, including brain fog. It's important to talk to your doctor about any medications or supplements you are taking to determine if they could be causing your brain fog. Also, combining some supplements with prescribed medications can alter the desired outcome. Instead of helping, they could be hurting.
Cancer or Cancer Treatments
Cancer and cancer treatments can also cause brain fog. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery can lead to cognitive side effects, including temporary memory loss, attention, and difficulty concentrating. In some cases, cancer itself can cause cognitive problems.
If you are experiencing brain fog during or after cancer treatment, it's important to talk to your doctor. They can help you determine if your symptoms are related to your cancer or cancer treatment and recommend appropriate treatments.
Menopause is a natural part of aging that can cause many symptoms, including brain fog. During menopause, the body experiences a decrease in estrogen levels, which can lead to cognitive side effects.
If you are experiencing brain fog during menopause, several treatments may help. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help to restore estrogen levels and alleviate cognitive symptoms. Other treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), may also help manage cognitive symptoms.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a complex condition that can cause many symptoms, including fatigue, muscle pain, and cognitive problems. Brain fog is a common symptom of CFS, and it can be one of the most frustrating symptoms for those who experience it.
If you are experiencing brain fog because of CFS, it's vital to work with your doctor to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. This may include lifestyle changes, such as exercise, dietary modifications, and medications to manage symptoms.
Chronic depression can also cause brain fog. In people with depression, brain fog can cause difficulty concentrating, memory, and decision-making. It can also lead to feelings of confusion and disorientation.
If you are experiencing brain fog due to depression, you must talk to your doctor about treatment options.
Lupus Has Some Common Symptoms with MS
Lupus is another chronic autoimmune disease that can cause various symptoms, including fatigue, joint pain, and cognitive problems. Brain fog is a common symptom of Lupus, and it can be one of the most frustrating symptoms for those who experience it.
If you are experiencing brain fog due to Lupus, working with your doctor to manage your symptoms is important. Treatment may include medications to manage inflammation, other Lupus symptoms, and lifestyle changes to reduce stress and improve overall health.
Ask Your Doctor
Brain fog is a common symptom of several different conditions, including MS, cancer, menopause, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic depression, and Lupus.
If you are experiencing brain fog, talking to your doctor about your symptoms and determining the underlying cause is crucial. With proper treatment and management, it's possible to reduce the impact of brain fog on your daily life and improve your overall quality of life.
Additionally, it's important to raise awareness about the symptoms of MS and other chronic conditions and support ongoing efforts to find better treatments and, eventually, a cure.
1. COVID and SAR-2 Brain Fog, The New England Journal of Medicine.
2. Definition: Brain Fog, Krishnan et al., J Health Serv Psychol, 2022 Garg et al., Int J Gen Med, 2021.
3. Multiple Sclerosis: World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/multiple-sclerosis.
4. Cancer: Lu, H., Chen, S., Chen, J., et al. Cancer-Related Cognitive Dysfunction in Older Patients. Seminars in Oncology Nursing. 2020; 36(4): 151-157. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7480192/.
5. Menopause: National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/menopause.
6. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cfs/index.html. Accessed 18 March 2021.
7. Chronic Depression: World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression.
8. Lupus. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/lupus.
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About the author
Stephen Dalton is a native of Old Town, ME, and a retired US Army First Sergeant with a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. He is a Certified US English Chicago Manual of Style Editor. Top Writer in Travel, Food, Fiction, Transportation, VR, NFL, Design, Creativity, Short Story, and a NewsBreak