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Covid19 Side Effect: Brain Fog?

COVID19

With over 50 million worldwide COVID recovered cases, many survivors are still feeling the lingering side effects. You may have heard of the quickened heart rate, dizziness, and chronic fatigue. Recently, however, one particular side effect has gained a lot of attention – brain fog.

People forget names, lose concentration, and have trouble planning or prioritizing properly. In the last couple of months, experts have studied this recent side effect. They’ve analyzed its impact and where it is coming from.

If you want to know more, you are in the right place! Here is what science has to say about brain fog from COVID-19.

Real Life Brain Fog Cases

Millions of survivors have completely recovered from the illness. But, some of them are having lingering side effects.

“It feels like I’m having dementia,” stated a COVID survivor patient after experiencing the brain fog side effect. New York Times published the story of Lisa Mizelle, an experienced nurse practitioner who got infected in July. Afterward, she started to forget lab tests and routine treatments.

Ms. Mizelle stated she had to consult with colleagues about terminology she would normally use with ease. Plus, whenever she left the room, she would immediately forget what her patient said. This made her feel scared and anxious when working.

Michael Reagan also had a terrifying experience. After recovering from the coronavirus, the patient lost 12 days of his memory from his trip to Paris. Although he went on a vacation a couple of weeks earlier, he couldn’t remember any of it.

According to an infectious disease specialist, Tanu Singhal, recently, there have been more and more patients admitted for the brain fog side effect. One patient was admitted for a mild COVID infection. He didn’t need any significant treatment. But, after one month, the patient became forgetful. His forgetfulness escalated to the extent that he forgot almost everything.

He became withdrawn and drowsy and had to receive treatment. Singhal stated brain fog comes in various spectrums and needs more research. But, what we do know is that COVID-19 doesn’t behave like any other known pathogen. It breaks all the common barriers and boundaries.

Why Do People Experience Brain Fog?

Around 55% to 60% of recovered COVID-19 patients experience neurological symptoms. Studies show they have visual disturbance, fatigue, headaches, and mood changes. Major functional and microstructural brain integrity disruptions are common.

According to Singhal, COVID-19 enters the system through the ACE-2 receptor. These receptors can be found scattered around the system. That’s why the infection has complete access to all parts of the human body. So, it can also affect the central nervous system.

One reason for the forgetfulness may be actual organ damage. Depending on the severity of the infection, the virus can influence internal systems. Another reason might be a byproduct of stress. Our body has too much on its plate when it’s infected with COVID-19. So, the nervous system has nowhere left to run.

Brain fog is thought to be caused by POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). This is a well-known blood circulation health disorder. At first, patients think these symptoms are “just in their head.” But neurology reports are showing otherwise.

Although more research is necessary, it is evident that some survivors have typical POTS signs. Tae Chung, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University, stated that these symptoms are very real. And they do cause a stir.

In fact, they are linked to autonomic nerve dysfunction. Our autonomic nervous system is responsible for many involuntary body functions. Like blood flow, bowel movement, and sweating.

Chung estimates that the virus could be linked to progressive inflammation in the autonomic nervous system, which ends up causing POTS. But, before a patient can diagnose the issue, they must recognize the symptoms.

How to Recognize the Symptoms?

According to Columbia University, even mild COVID cases can still cause COVID-19 brain fog. Among hospitalized patients, around a third of them experienced acute neurological symptoms.

Global case reports show that patients may experience:

  • Inattention
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of concentration
  • Trouble working for long hours
  • Difficulty getting out of bed
  • Forgetfulness
  • Anxiety
  • Poor sleep

The least common symptoms are behavior and thinking problems. That’s why some people might feel anxious or have trouble sleeping. When accompanied by the typical sensory symptoms, like loss of taste and smell, this side effect can be a real problem.

It can make you lose your appetite, cause discomfort, lightheadedness, and more. Therefore, survivors who were previously thriving may now experience profound changes in their day-to-day lives. It is best to ask for help to curb these symptoms.

Can People Recover?

Yes. Brain fog seems to be a temporary side effect. No one has complained of chronic or permanent forgetfulness and fatigue. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go away as fast as people want it to. It can linger, but the body will eventually recover.

If you suspect to have any neurological side effects, it’s best to get evaluated at an outpatient clinic. You might want to keep a diary and record the symptoms you are experiencing. To do that, pay attention to your memory, sensory symptoms, fatigue, taste and smell, anxiety, and sleep.

References

https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/even-mild-cases-can-cause-covid-19-fog

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/newsroom/news-releases/covid-19-story-tip-brain-fog-fatigue-dizziness–post-covid-pots-is-real

https://scroll.in/article/981106/why-do-recovered-covid-19-patients-report-brain-fog-an-infectious-disease-specialist-explains

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7527190/