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Explainer: COVID-19 patients are experiencing brain fog. Here’s what experts say could be done as a remedy

Many people who have recovered from the acute, life-threatening effects of COVID-19 say they still don’t feel that their thinking and memory are back to normal. Medical experts say this condition is known as “brain fog” and though not new, it has been exacerbated by the novel Coronavirus disease. It is among long COVID-19 complications which cause serious neurological and neurocognitive impairments, a phenomenon sometimes known as neuro-COVID.

This explainer will attempt to throw light on the condition from the medical perspective and the ways how it can be handled.

Some symptoms of COVID-19 such as encephalitis, strokes, and lack of oxygen to the brain can be devastating, say medical experts. But they say other effects may be more subtle, such as the long-haul persistent impairment in sustained attention noted by Chinese researchers.

So, what is brain fog?

From time to time perhaps you couldn’t think clearly when you were sick with the flu or another illness. Sometimes too, you struggle to concentrate or lose your train of thought. Some of the patients interviewed by media said they experience memory loss and can hardly recall a discussion they had had a while ago. This condition is known as brain fog.

Medical experts say the term is “frustratingly imprecise” but what is indisputable is that “it is incredibly an annoying symptom.”

Other side effects included processing speed (the time it takes someone to perform a mental task), executive functioning (associated with setting and completing goals), and phonemic and category fluency (the ability to come up with words based on certain criteria).

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes difficulty thinking or concentrating — sometimes referred to as “brain fog” — on its list of post-Covid conditions.

“Although most people with COVID-19 get better within weeks of illness, some people experience post-COVID conditions,” the CDC notes on its website.

A family Doctor in the United Kingdom, Dr Kerry Smith told UK-based Medical News Today that she is unable to return to work for the past 18 months after contracting COVID-19 due to this phenomenon.

“The thing that’s preventing me [from] going back to work as a [family doctor] is my cognitive issues or brain fog. Ummm [silence] Sorry, sorry, that’s it, you see, I lose my train of thought, Hilary [interviewer’s name, ed.], that’s the problem. With, with my brain fog, I have problems concentrating, keeping up with conversations, multitasking. I lose my train of thought easily. And I have difficulties with my memory,” she said.

On Friday, Medical Journal, JAMA Network Open published some findings which showed that 185 out of 740; nearly a quarter of Covid-19 patients in a Mount Sinai Health System registry experienced some issues with their memory — and although hospitalized patients were more likely to have such brain fog after a coronavirus infection, some outpatients had cognitive impairment too.

“In this study, we found a relatively high frequency of cognitive impairment several months after patients contracted COVID-19. Impairments in executive functioning, processing speed, category fluency, memory encoding, and recall were predominant among hospitalized patients,” Jacqueline Becker and her colleagues at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, wrote in the study.

This pattern is consistent with early reports, though separate, published in April 2021 in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, found that as many as 1 in 3 people with Covid-19 had longer-term mental health or neurological symptoms.

What should you do if you may be experiencing COVID-19 brain fog?

Medical experts advise that the first and most important thing to do is to see your doctor and share with them all of the lingering symptoms you are experiencing. These should include your brain fog and other neurologic symptoms (such as weakness, numbness, tingling, loss of smell or taste), and also problems such as shortness of breath, palpitations, and abnormal urine.

Assistant director of the ICU Recovery Center at Vanderbilt and lead psychologist at the Critical Illness, Brain Dysfunction and Survivorship Center (CIBS), James C. Jackson says these ailments also can cause people to feel as if they’re not thinking clearly.

“It could be that the brain fog is influenced by the anxiety and depression and if we treat those treatable conditions a natural consequence is that the brain fog could diminish,” Jackson said.

What might help clear the brain fog?

Medical experts say to clear this phenomenon, one must undergo the following exercises which is generally accepted to assist everyone’s thinking and memory.

  1. Perform aerobic exercise. You may need to start slow, perhaps just two to three minutes a few times a day. While there is no established “dose” of exercise to improve brain health, it’s generally recommended you work toward 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
  2. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Give your brain the best chance to heal by avoiding substances that can adversely affect it.
  3. Participate in social activities. We are social animals. Not only do social activities benefit our moods, but they help our thinking and memory as well.
  4. Eat Mediterranean-style meals. A healthy diet including olive oil, fruits and vegetables, nuts and beans, and whole grains has been proven to improve thinking, memory. and brain health.
  5. Sleep well. Sleep is a time when the brain and body can clear out toxins and work toward healing. Make sure you give your body the sleep it needs.
  6. Pursue other beneficial activities, including engaging in novel cognitively stimulating activities; listening to music; practising mindfulness; and keeping a positive mental attitude.

This story is supported by Journalists for Human Rights under the Mobilizing Media to Fighting Covid-19 project.

www.zamireports.com | Ghana.



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