Brain fog and Lupus
I found this article on thelupusmagazine.com. It addresses the brain fog many lupus patients have had or have and helps others to understand the problem. I found this a good read and wanted to share it for you as well.
Understanding the Unseen Realm of Lupus Brain Fog
by Kim Nault ©
An estimated 70-90 % of SLE patients will experience the infamous lupus brain fog. This is the most common form of central nervous system involvement in SLE and can be mild to severe, and vary from person to person. The lupus brain fog is classified as a manifestation of organic brain disease and is of one of the 19 manifestations of NP-SLE/neuropsychiatric SLE that has a broad spectrum of manifestations, including psychiatric disorders and neurological syndromes of the central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous systems. Each manifestation is vast and complicating and far outside the scope of this sole article.
Sadly, the actual field of NP-SLE is still in its infancy, there is not much research done on this vast topic and not too many doctors fully understand this form of organ involvement. Many assume that the brain fog of lupus is just some quirky annoying problem, that it is not that bad, not that serious of a problem. For more than half the patients with brain fog it will be a quirky, sometimes an annoying and even at other times a comical issue, but for others it will be very disabling. In addition, lupus brain fog notably fluctuates with and without disease activity.
I have heard many heart-wrenching stories, of patients whose very own doctors have ignored or even minimized their conditions and complaints as mere irritants. Some medical practitioners do not regard the lupus brain fog as a disabling issue that reduces their patient’s quality of life. This is unacceptable. Lastly, if such large amounts of lupus patients are living and battling with the lingering consequences of brain fog, than why isn’t someone in the research field really pounding the scientific pavement for us to pinpoint the exact cause of this and yield our patient population better treatments? We deserve better diagnostic tools and therapies in our lives while we try to climb out of the trenches of the cognitively challenged.
There are also a high number of lupus patients with the secondary Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome/APS/Hughes Syndrome as well as those with concurrent fibromyalgia, both who seem to encounter more obvious signs of the insidious brain fog. There are many running jokes among patients regarding the effects of the brain fog monster in their lives. While we have to admit that some of the brain fog incidents are indeed hilarious and even downright entertaining to our loved ones there yet remains the silent population within the brain fog group who are overwhelmed with the mental and emotional impairments brought on by NP-SLE.
The lupus brain fog can cause:
• Cognitive Dysfunction (impaired abstract, concentration & reasoning skills)
• Short-term Memory Loss
• Verbal Fluency Dysfunction (difficulty finding words)
• Impaired Recall
Patients struggle with the cognitive impairments and the ripple effects that it has on their lives. To some patients it is embarrassing, frustrating and certainly regarded as incapacitating. I recall a forum discussion where Angie Phillips (NP-SLE/APS patient-advocate, founder/ creator of Ardent Cerebrations: Musings of Lupus Survivors!), earnestly explained that for her, the disabling effects of NP-SLE have been far more devastating than that of the pain caused by SLE. That she has incurred more disability from the cognitive issues relating to CNS lupus, that she would gladly take the pain and have her mental faculties restored to the way they used to be. I too, have described to my loved ones that I have teetered on near organ failure and have accumulated physical impairments, but not to have the consistency of my cognitive sharpness and verbal fluency has rendered me more defeated than anything else I have ever faced.
A few months ago, while at my primary doctor’s office we were discussing organic brain disease and she explained that neurologists had discovered that commencing to treat stroke patients with SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) antidepressants immediately following stroke promoted faster neuron repair and recovery from their strokes. She surmised that if antidepressants use was benefiting recovering stroke victims than people with organic brain diseases will also benefit from using them. Before you scoff at the idea of swallowing yet another pill, you might consider having a frank discussion with your doctor about whether you may or may not benefit from taking an antidepressant.
If you have a health insurance coverage that will cover neuropsychological testing, you may consider having that done. Once the tests are completed, the psychologist will make recommendations of activities that you can do to exercise areas of your brain that are affected by the brain fog. I know some patients who do brain games to exercise their minds and keep themselves as sharp as possible. There are very good games on the internet developed by neurologists and neuropsychologists, and a small amount of time surfing the Web may provide you with a good site to frequent. Do understand that lupus brain fog will wax and wane, some days will be better than others will. Do not be hard on yourself!
Coping and Strategizing – Lupie Cognitive Survival Tips:
• Do not multi-task (it can prove dangerous)
• Do not overbook your daily schedule
• Do not over commit yourself
• Prioritize appointments/events/activities (don’t double book things on the same day)
• Determine your peak energy time of the day (schedule needs around that time)
• Reduce background noises when needing to focus
• Use only one calendar (mark doctor’s appointments in one color)
• Set timers for reminders (cellular phones and your PC have different applications)
• Note pads (one for pocketbook, one for computer desk and one for kitchen countertop)
• Keep things simple
• Learn to say “no” (we do not have to commit to every event or activity)
Do not be hard on yourself! Explain to your loved ones about your frustrations and concerns with how lupus is affecting your cognitive abilities. Some of our loved ones may even have simple suggestions to simplify things in our lives, which may foster better memory and peace of mind. Please do not try to tough things out on your own; this will not produce great results. Be willing to ask others for assistance with things. If you are a type-A control freak of a Lupie, try the Zen Lupie practice of not being a control freak! Living with a chronic illness while life whirls about us, can be at times very stressful. How often do I forget that quality of life begins right smack between my very own ears? As in life, some days will be easier than others will and when we lose our way, another veteran patient stands ready to hand feed us morsels that will lead us out of darkness and place us back on the path of inner strength and hope.
*The best resource in your healthcare is your own doctor. The Lupus Magazine does not endorse or recommend any medication or drug company. This article is informational only and should not replace the medical care of your doctor.