The problem of fog in the head has come to the fore in recent months. A lot of people complain about the inability to concentrate, blackouts, confusion in thoughts. Often, those who have had COVID-19 complain, and all these manifestations can be part of the postcoid syndrome. But it looks like it's not just the coronavirus. Moreover, the fog in the head itself is a condition well known to doctors since pre-pandemic times. MedAboutMe found out what causes fog in the head and if there is an easier explanation for it than COVID-19.
Fog in the head: what is it?
Brain fog, fog in the head (brain fog) - this is not a disease as such, but a condition characterized by the following manifestations:
memory impairments, trouble concentrating and inability to concentrate, confused thoughts, problems with thinking clearly.
Often this condition is explained by general overwork, but, unlike chronic fatigue syndrome, a person may not feel the “burden of being” - be quite active, do something, strive for something, demonstrate the will to live, but at the same time desperately "slow down", demonstrate pathological absent-mindedness and the inability to somehow control their life and the processes taking place around.
6 possible causes of brain fog
Let's list the most common causes of head fog.
Long-term chronic stress is a difficult test for the body. It raises blood pressure, weakens the immune system, and can cause depression. If a person is emotionally exhausted and physiological problems are superimposed on this, mental fatigue can also develop.
Lack of sleep
Sleep duration for people of different ages ranges from 6-7 to 8-9 hours. Going beyond these limits is undesirable. Everyone knows that an acute lack of sleep reduces concentration, negatively affects memory and causes thoughts to scatter in a chaotic disorder.
Changes in hormonal balance
The surges of female sex hormones (progesterone and estrogen) are well known to women, and not only to those who monthly pass through key points of their menstrual cycle, but also to those who are carrying a child or have just given birth. Fluctuations in hormones can affect memory, concentration and, in general, cause short-term cognitive impairment.
Consequences of the diet
Diets are different. Some rather harsh dietary regimens can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. For example, veganism (and vegetarianism too) is a path to vitamin B12 deficiency, so it must be compensated for with dietary supplements.
Fog in the head can develop in the presence of food allergies or hypersensitivity to certain substances and foods - to milk, gluten, peanuts, etc. If you suspect an allergy or food hypersensitivity, you should definitely go to a doctor and find out the true cause of this condition.
By the way, attempts to lose weight by "cutting off excess water" can cause dehydration - and this is also one of the possible causes of fog in the head.
Head fog is a common side effect of chemotherapy in cancer treatment. There are other medications that can cause confusion and poor concentration, so the instructions for any medication should be read very carefully. The problem of brain fog can be discussed with a doctor in order to adjust the dose of the medication or replace it with something not so "heavy" for the brain.
There are a number of diseases, among the symptoms of which will be fog in the head. Such diseases include anemia, depression, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, migraine, Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, etc.
Post-stroke acute dysexpectative syndrome (PSADES) is a cognitive dysfunction that often develops after even a minor stroke. It is believed that the syndrome itself, although associated with necrosis of brain tissue, does not depend on the lesion focus. Within a few months, the patient's condition returns to normal. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in December 2020, found that stroke leads to dysfunction in the distributed network of the brain. Even with minor damage, the disease affects the entire neural community in the brain, resulting in a kind of neural sluggishness.
Postcoid brain fog
Many COVID-19 patients report headaches and fog in the head, which remain even after a full recovery for weeks and months. The fact that coronavirus infection somehow affects the central nervous system, doctors began to talk back in the spring of 2020. Then it was discovered that patients suffering from COVID-19 lose their sense of smell, and also develop chronic fatigue syndrome. Initially, it was suggested that the coronavirus enters the brain and affects neurons. However, this theory did not fit the fact that neurons do not have ACE2 receptors, and the virus cannot attack them in any way.
Later, it was shown that the cause of the loss of taste and smell is the destruction of the glial cells by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which surrounds sensitive neurons that transmit information about taste and smell to the brain. As these cells regenerate, taste and smell return. And the duration of recovery depends on the extent of the virus damage during the illness.
Also in the study, the results of which were published in January 2021 in the New England Journal of Medicine, it was proved that the cause of the disturbances in the functioning of neurons in the brain is damage to the small blood vessels of the brain. Analysis of the brain tissue of infected people showed that indeed such cerebral vessels have signs of inflammation and damage to the walls, which leads to the development of acute and persistent neurological manifestations of COVID-19.
The hypothesis of damage to the blood vessels of the brain is not contradicted by the results of a study published in February 2021 in the journal Cancer Cell. In particular, the detection of molecules that cause inflammation in the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord has been reported. The virus itself was not detected in the cerebrospinal fluid.
Finally, in February 2021, the results of another study were published in the journal JAMNeurology, according to which megakaryocytes - giant bone marrow cells - are a possible cause of brain fog after suffering COVID-19. It was their scientists who found in the brain tissues of a third of people who died from COVID-19. But so far, we can only say that megakaryocytes in brain tissues are an increased risk of stroke. Whether they are also the cause of the fog in the head is not yet clear.
What to do when there is fog in your head?
Fog in the head is a recognizable condition, but not specific to any one disease. It suggests that a person has disturbances in the functioning of the neural network of the brain. Whether they are associated with inflammation, deterioration of blood flow, a decrease in oxygen (hypoxia) in the tissues of the brain, or with any other complications caused by the underlying disease or pathological condition, it is impossible to tell right away. In any case, doctors need to determine the true cause of the disorder, and then prescribe treatment. Self-therapy of pathologies of the central nervous system is not permissible.
Therefore, first of all, you need to see a doctor, get tested and find out what is going wrong in the body. It is possible that treatment will not be needed. It will be enough:
normalize sleep; eat right; reduce stress; play sports within reasonable limits.
If the reason is a past illness, it is necessary to discuss rehabilitation issues with the attending physicians.