Brain fog, otherwise known as cognitive impairment, is a very common symptom in many chronic illnesses, such as M.E/chronic fatigue syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) and more. Forgetfulness, difficulty focusing, thinking and communicating are common descriptors of the fog. For me it is one of the most debilitating symptoms and I want to use this post to explain to non-sufferers what it is like to have a foggy brain!
Brain fog stops us from being able to concentrate on anything for very long at all – to illustrate this I’m am going to log the times of the day when my brain is clear enough to write this post.
I have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). Brain fog in POTS is caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain. When a person with POTS stands or is upright, blood pools in the lower body and not much flows to the brain. The brain needs blood to function so when it’s deprived of it, brain fog occurs. This leaves the person feeling very overwhelmed with their physical surroundings (noise, lights etc), confused, unable to focus on anything or have a coherent conversation, and they may also experience overwhelming fatigue. These symptoms don’t just occur when the person is upright, the fog persists when they lie down
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had some of the worst fog I’ve ever had due to starting beta blockers that have exacerbated all of my POTS symptoms. It feels like my head was is heavy i can barely lift it off the pillow…and when I do the room is spinning, I can’t focus on anything, and even the slightest noise causes sensory overload.
28/4/14 11:12 – 11:34
Brain fog severely effects a persons ability to concentrate and remember things. I can’t read a book/magazine for more than five minutes before I get double vision, my eyes hurt and I can feel a headache coming on. I can’t draw anymore due to the intense concentration required. When having a conversation with someone, I am constantly forgetting what I am saying half way through a sentence and I have word finding difficulties. This is much worse in noisey, busy environments. I forget the simplest of things, e.g when someone important rings I can’t for the life of me tell my mum what was discussed on the phone, I can’t remember! I forget where I put things all the time, even my phone which is permanently attached to me I seem to manage to loose! I have to heavily rely on my mum and boyfriend to remember everything for me. They have to come to all of my appointments as otherwise I’ll forget within minutes what was discussed, and they have to remind me to take my medication which so important as there are bad consequences if I forget to take it. I know what you’re thinking … You’re forgetful too?? But when you have POTS it is extreme!! And it’s so frustrating.
Lifting the fog
While there is no direct treatment for brain fog, there are some things that can help: lying down, complete rest periods (lying down with eyes closed and no stimulation), eating a high salt and fluid diet (this will increase circulatory volume and blood pressure), sleeping and staying cool. I drink 3-4 litres of water a day, eat lots of pink Himalayan sea salt and have regular lie downs throughout the day where I turn off all screens and try and sleep and rest, to try and clear some of the fog. I have also found doing some mindfulness to ease the stress of the fog can help. Is a wonderful resource to use for this.
29/07/14 10:45 – 11:25 & 12:11-12:41
What can you do to help?
– Understand that when talking to some one who has POTS that their brain fog is not just normal “forgetfulness” being forgetful and brain fog are two totally different things.
– Let the person with POTS know that it’s ok, and that they should take their time during conversation.
– If the person forgets something important such as a birthday, understand that it’s not their fault.
– Provide encouragement – help them to remember their words!
– Do not be offended when the person can’t answer the phone or see you, they simply aren’t well enough and need to rest
Really hope this helps you to understand brain fog a little better & you use some of the tips provided with loved ones experiencing it!