Dealing with ‘brain fog’ from long COVID-19

Distraught black businesswoman wearing face mask while feeling frustrated during virus epidemic.

Post-COVID syndrome, also known as long COVID-19, involves a wide range of health problems that occur many weeks, months and years after recovering from COVID-19 infection. Sometimes, symptoms of long COVID-19 can include cognitive difficulties such as brain fog.

“Brain fog” has been used to describe some of these symptoms. While “brain fog” is not a medical condition, it’s a term used for certain symptoms that can affect one’s ability to think.

In this Mayo Clinic Minute, Dr. Billie Schultz, a Mayo Clinic physical medicine and rehabilitation expert, discusses what can be done to help patients experiencing “brain fog.”

Short-term memory loss, confusion and difficulty concentrating are all things those suffering from “brain fog” may experience after recovering from COVID-19 infection.

“What ‘brain fog’ is it’s just kind of this feeling that you’re trying to do something, and it’s taking more effort. It’s harder to do. You don’t feel like you’re picking up all of those details — almost as if you’re driving through a fog,” says Dr. Schultz.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment that can cure these cognitive difficulties, some rehabilitation strategies can retrain the brain to work on the areas that are most challenging.

“Typically, it means going into work with a therapist initially once or twice over the course of a month. And getting homework. “I want you to try to utilize these strategies in your day-to-day life.” Because, ultimately, that’s what decides if they’re working.”

Other common symptoms are fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain and chest pain. Other issues include cognitive problems, difficulty concentrating, depression, muscle pain, headache, rapid heartbeat and intermittent fever.

Heart problems after COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 infection can leave some people with heart problems, including inflammation of the heart muscle. In fact, one study showed that 60% of people who recovered from COVID-19 had signs of ongoing heart inflammation, which could lead to the common symptoms of shortness of breath, palpitations and rapid heartbeat. This inflammation appeared even in those who had had a mild case of COVID-19 and who had no medical issues before they got sick.

When it comes to COVID-19, how long is “long-term”? The answer is unknown. Though it seems like a very long time since the pandemic began, COVID-19 only began spreading widely in early 2020, and the vast majority of people who have had the disease are only a year or less into their recovery. It will take longer to understand what is next for patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and who still have resulting health problems.

Dr. Schultz stresses that people should address any cognitive symptoms that affect their day-to-day life, regardless of whether those symptoms are related to long COVID-19.

“The most important thing you can do as a patient is to share honestly with your providers what you’re experiencing,” says Dr. Schultz.

Source: The Mayo Clinic

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