BRAUN: Long COVID ‘brain fog’ an increasing concern


Article content

Brain fog, a typical symptom of prolonged COVID, is now a major concern to scientists and sufferers alike.

Advertisement 2

Article content

A form of cognitive dysfunction, “brain fog” is the phrase used to describe the fuzzy-headed lingering effects of COVID-19 (and specifically, long COVID) — a disconcerting loss of focus, attention and memory.

Article content

COVID-19 is not the only ailment that can trigger brain fog. Some cancer and Lyme disease patients and those who have suffered concussion and chronic fatigue syndrome complain of similar cognitive issues.

A recently Washington Post articles delves into what it’s like to live with brain fog.

Some people experience the condition so intensely that they can no longer go to work, read a book, or get through the day without detailed to-do lists, lists that include such basics as “eat breakfast” or “feed the dogs.”

Advertisement 3

Article content

It is incapacitating.

Jeffrey Wefel, a professor and chief of neuropsychology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, told the Posts that brain fog symptoms can have, “an adverse effect on occupational, familial and social lives and can result in diminished quality of life.”

In a recent paper, Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology at Yale University and Michelle Monje, a professor of neurology at Stanford University, outlined six possible causes for COVID-related “brain fog;” One possible common cause, they write, is inflammation in the brain and neural cell dysfunction.

The researchers list acute and chronic neurological and neuropsychiatric symptoms that include loss of smell and taste, cognitive impairments, depression, and anxiety.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Recommended videos

We apologize but this video has failed to load.

Prominent among these lasting neurological conditions is brain fog, they write, “a syndrome of persistent cognitive impairment characterized by impaired attention, concentration, memory, speed of information processing, and executive function.”

Long COVID was reported early on in the pandemic. Brain fog (usually with fatigue) was flagged as its hallmark.

Neither the medical profession nor the government was quick to acknowledge “long-haul” COVID or the virus’ lingering effects.

Infectious disease epidemiologist Zahid Butt, an assistant professor at the School of Public Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo, said it’s difficult to quantify brain fog.

“But a recent study on mice showed some sort of inflammation of the brain that results from a COVID-19 infection,” he said.

Advertisement 5

Article content

While initial reports suggested 30% of the population might get long COVID, current estimates put it closer to 50%, said Butt.

“We are just discovering the burden and extent of long COVID. There are many symptoms and brain fog is just one. We need more human studies to better understand the pathology,” he added.

“Certainly, it is not psychological.”

For now, managing the symptoms is all that can be done.

“We don’t have a lot of treatments,” cautioned Butt.

A list of some medications and therapies that are being tried out on the treatment front was published in psychiatric recently.

Medications include methylphenidate, donepezil, modafinil, luteolin, nicotinamide riboside, vitamin C or probiotic supplementation, monoclonal antibodies, or adaptogens.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, graded exercise therapy, pacing, and rehabilitation are also potentially helpful.

Doctors who have been close to long COVID through research or patient care offer the same advice:

Avoid re-infection at all costs.

Every time you get COVID is another chance to get long COVID — and the brain fog that comes with it.

Advertisement 1


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

- Advertisement -

Comments are closed.