Brain Fog After COVID-19: Why It Happens and What You Can Do
Not only do these reports shed light on how the COVID-19 virus can impact our cognition, but they also illuminate the fact that anyone—no matter their COVID-19 history—can experience persistent brain fog.
If you feel you’ve had brain fog after COVID-19, the Aviv Clinics team is here to help you navigate through that. Stay educated with this essential guide to give yourself the best chance at getting back to optimal health.
As you’re reading through this, keep in mind:
- Each person has a unique experience with COVID-19. Therefore, speaking with a doctor is a critical first step to diagnosing long COVID.
- Per the CDC, several alternative terms are used to reference long COVID, such as post-COVID, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID, and chronic COVID.
What Is Brain Fog?
Brain fog is a term that describes slow or sluggish thinking. Someone with brain fog may experience confusion, forgetfulness, and/or a lack of mental clarity.
We all experience brain fog from time to time. Perhaps you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, took an antihistamine, or had a cold that made you feel unfocused or disoriented. In cases like these, you can simply rest and feel like yourself in no time.
But sometimes, individuals experience brain fog that lingers even beyond six months after having COVID. This has been one of the main symptoms of post-COVID.
Is Brain Fog a Symptom of Long COVID?
Yes, brain fog is a common symptom of long COVID—the CDC lists brain fog under its neurological symptoms. Brain fog from COVID-19 doesn’t necessarily need to manifest on a substantial level; it can be subtle. One study notes participants who didn’t notice their brain fog still performed poorly on attention and memory tasks.
Why Does COVID-19 Cause Brain Fog?
Stanford Medicine researchers note brain fog from COVID-19 emulates the same cognitive issues caused by cancer chemotherapy (“chemo brain”). In both cases, excessive inflammation damages the brain cells and processes.
Aviv physician Dr. Mohammed Elamir, MD, FACP, further explains there is a link between:
- Where the COVID-19 virus attacks the brain
- How that impacted location in the brain affects long COVID symptoms
There are four main ways COVID-19 can attack the brain:
- Direct brain invasion: The virus travels through the nose and into the insula—which oversees memory and executive function through its connection with the prefrontal cortex.
- Blood vessel injury: The COVID-19 virus may harm blood vessels that feed blood to the brain.
- Dysregulated immune response: Damaged blood vessels caused by COVID-19 can slow down the growth of cells, impacting the brain’s immune response.
- Cellular dysfunction: COVID-19 can trigger cell damage. This slows down the body’s response rate to infection, leading to high inflammatory conditions.
Is My Brain Fog Related to COVID-19?
If you notice your cognition has not been the same since your COVID-19 infection, we recommend speaking with a physician. Your body and health background are entirely unique from other people’s. Therefore, it’s important to discuss your lingering symptoms with a healthcare professional to assess whether your brain fog is indeed due to long COVID.
The certified physicians at Aviv Clinics assess the following four areas to diagnose long COVID. Walking through these four areas enables your physician to provide the holistic approach your health deserves.
- Physical symptoms: Fatigue, cough, loss of taste or smell, labored breathing, joint/muscle pain, etc.
- Cognitive and psychological symptoms: Brain fog, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, headaches, etc.
- Lung symptoms: Shortness of breath, chest pain/tightness, etc.
- Cardiac symptoms: Heart palpitations, elevated blood pressure, decline in oxygen saturation, etc.
How Can You Minimize Post-COVID Brain Fog?
Minimizing post-COVID brain fog involves engaging in activities known to improve memory and thought processes. These activities may include:
- Getting adequate sleep
- Eating a well-balanced diet
Addressing Long COVID Symptoms
Multiple studies reveal, as part of a comprehensive treatment program, hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) may help in mitigating long COVID symptoms. From clinical and qualitative evaluations of HBOT patients, researchers conclude there is hope that HBOT can address some of the common symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog.
Aviv Clinics’ team of certified physicians takes a three-step approach to their long COVID treatment:
- In-depth medical assessment: Conducting comprehensive testing (physical, cognitive, and neurological) and brain imaging
- Tailored treatment program: Creating a customized treatment plan based on your test results
- Post-treatment assessment: Administering second round of testing to unveil findings/progress
Learn more about Aviv’s long COVID approach.
How Long Does Post-COVID Brain Fog Last?
As everyone’s bodies are different, there is no set time limit to COVID-19 brain fog. Some research studies indicate that most patients recover within six to nine months, with others experiencing brain fog for two years or more.
Dr. Mohammed Elamir, MD, FACP, says how long it takes for brain fog to go away depends on how invasive the virus is in your body:
“[…] the amount of real estate that those microvascular changes are occupying will probably dictate how long [symptoms] will last.”
The Bottom Line
Brain fog from COVID-19 can be difficult to live with. If you or a loved one suspects COVID-19 has left lingering cognitive issues, contact Aviv Clinics. Our team will offer the resources you need to learn more about how our team of physicians treats long COVID symptoms. Feeling your best cognitively and physically starts with us.