Post COVID Brain Fog: The Consistent Mystery

Aug 1, 2022 | Greg Vanichkachorn | @drvan | Comments (23)

In the early days of the pandemic, patients with Post COVID Syndrome (PCS) reported troubles with their thinking. This came to be known as brain fog, and since then the term has become of permanent part of the PCS discussion. Yet, if you look up the word brain fog in a medical dictionary, you won’t find any information. That’s because brain fog is not a medical term and it does not have a set definition. However, if we go past the term brain fog and ask patients with PCS what specific thinking problems they have, patients describe amazingly similar troubles.

The most common complaint is trouble finding words during speech. Patients often describe feeling the word they want to say is on the tip of their tongue, but they just can’t proceed.  This makes communicating very difficult, which is quite frustrating, especially when suffering a medical condition.

The next frequent problem involves short term memory. The classic story we hear from patients is that they will go into a room to find something, and not remember what they were looking for when they get there.  Or they will listen to new information, such as driving directions, and not be able to retain the details.

Finally, patients have problems with multitasking.  Doing even simple things at the same time are much harder with PCS. A common example is having troubles grocery shopping while having a conversation.

This pattern of thinking difficulty PCS is surprisingly consistent. It is also not rare. In fact, 45% of our patients in the COVID Activity Rehabilitation Program (CARP) report suffering from brain fog.  And unfortunately, of all the symptoms we get to help patients with, thinking troubles are often one of the most stressful symptoms, because it causes problems with work and relationships.

Fortunately, we are now starting to unravel the mystery around brain fog.  For example, there are now studies showing that after COVID, there can be brain structure changes, explaining the dysfunction we see.  We are also making progress in how brain fog is objectively described. For example, a research study at Mayo Clinic is currently trialing a new virtual test for brain fog. This 25-minute test allows our team to identify specific areas of troubled thinking in patients with PCS. This is important because once we know the problems, we can help patients develop specific strategies to overcome their troubles. And with each test, we are contributing to a growing database that helps describe brain fog in PCS more accurately.

What should you do if you feel you have troubles with thinking after a COVID infection? First, take care of yourself.  Eat well, hydrate, and get good sleep.  If that doesn’t help, reach out to your treatment provider. We have found that patients that are able to get help sooner, get better faster and more completely.

Together, we can help clear out the brain fog of PCS, and shed more light on the path to better health.

Read more about managing symptoms through early care. Learn tips on talking with your health care provider about post COVID syndrome, and connect with other people in the Post-COVID Recovery & COVID-19 support group.

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Post-COVID Recovery blog.

I had behavioral changes from covid.
I had an encephalogram done. The psychologist who read the results to me was surprised i spoke coherently because the test results were so extreme, so unusual. I went to several neuro feed back sessions which seemed to help.

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I had COVID in March of 2020. I am a first responder and returned to work after about 6 weeks. Unfortunately Long COVID was not even a thought. My PCP told me that my issues were a residual of the infection and they would go away. I say that to not place blame but my symptoms became much worse than I believe would have if I contracted COVID now and dealt with the symptoms right away. I didn’t recognize the brain fog until much later after my initial infection causing a much longer recovery. My point is to seek help right away. Don’t doubt yourself or minimize your symptoms. The earlier intervention the better overall. Brain fog caused me severe anxiety which doesn’t help the recovery time at all. I’m grateful for my Neurologist and his LONG COVID team at Henry Ford who are taking a genuine interest in this virus. The acknowledgement that I wasn’t crazy and was going through these brain changes lifted a huge burden off me that allowed me to heal.

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What treatment did you get for the brain fog

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@bennu007

I had COVID in March of 2020. I am a first responder and returned to work after about 6 weeks. Unfortunately Long COVID was not even a thought. My PCP told me that my issues were a residual of the infection and they would go away. I say that to not place blame but my symptoms became much worse than I believe would have if I contracted COVID now and dealt with the symptoms right away. I didn’t recognize the brain fog until much later after my initial infection causing a much longer recovery. My point is to seek help right away. Don’t doubt yourself or minimize your symptoms. The earlier intervention the better overall. Brain fog caused me severe anxiety which doesn’t help the recovery time at all. I’m grateful for my Neurologist and his LONG COVID team at Henry Ford who are taking a genuine interest in this virus. The acknowledgement that I wasn’t crazy and was going through these brain changes lifted a huge burden off me that allowed me to heal.

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Hello Bennu007,
I am sorry you have been dealing with the brain fog and were unable to get treatment sooner.
But I am happy that you found a neurologist and team of medical providers that are pro-active in your case!
I am looking for a physician for my daughter which is experiencing these same issues and extreme fatigue (where she'll be in bed for days at a time unable to stay awake).
I would appreciate any information you are willing to share about your physician(s), as we are uncertain as to how to find one that will deal with her symptoms (and not just say it will take time).
Thank you.

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@bba3

Hello Bennu007,
I am sorry you have been dealing with the brain fog and were unable to get treatment sooner.
But I am happy that you found a neurologist and team of medical providers that are pro-active in your case!
I am looking for a physician for my daughter which is experiencing these same issues and extreme fatigue (where she'll be in bed for days at a time unable to stay awake).
I would appreciate any information you are willing to share about your physician(s), as we are uncertain as to how to find one that will deal with her symptoms (and not just say it will take time).
Thank you.

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Hi, thank you! I’m sorry to hear about your daughter. What State are you in? I’m certain there has to be some team of COVID doctors, finding them is the challenge. The only thing that has helped with my fatigue was Modafinil. This helped clear the brain fog making me super focused but also hit me going. I was the same with fatigue. It was horrible. I wish your daughter well.

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@bennu007

Hi, thank you! I’m sorry to hear about your daughter. What State are you in? I’m certain there has to be some team of COVID doctors, finding them is the challenge. The only thing that has helped with my fatigue was Modafinil. This helped clear the brain fog making me super focused but also hit me going. I was the same with fatigue. It was horrible. I wish your daughter well.

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Hello, I'm still getting the hang of this and did not see your reply so I apologize for the delayed response. We are in Virginia. I agree; it is hard to find them. It's so time-consuming and trying to work and keep up with all other life responsibilities – it does become overwhelming.
I wish you continued success with Modafinil. I will note that as a possibility.
Thank you very much for your reply.

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I have terrible brain fog and I'm one year post covid. I know I blew several job interviews bc I simply could not find the words … They're there I can see and hear them. But I simply cant say them. Other things I should know that I've known for years take constant repetitions to ever ever remember it!!!! Very best of luck to us all & God bless!!!

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@bba3

Hello Bennu007,
I am sorry you have been dealing with the brain fog and were unable to get treatment sooner.
But I am happy that you found a neurologist and team of medical providers that are pro-active in your case!
I am looking for a physician for my daughter which is experiencing these same issues and extreme fatigue (where she'll be in bed for days at a time unable to stay awake).
I would appreciate any information you are willing to share about your physician(s), as we are uncertain as to how to find one that will deal with her symptoms (and not just say it will take time).
Thank you.

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BBA, have you looked at the Survivor Corps website? They list Post COVID Care Clinics available across the nation and world wide
– PCCC https://www.survivorcorps.com/pccc

@bennu007, you hit on several key points, i.e., getting help early and getting validation. These are so important. Many patients feel they are not being taken seriously and often providers don't recognize brain fog. I think this earlier post from Dr. Van will also resonate with you:
– Early Care Tips for COVID Longhaulers https://connect.mayoclinic.org/blog/post-covid-recovery/newsfeed-post/early-care-tips-for-covid-longhaulers/

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My husband had a very successful company and went to MIT in his younger years. He is 71 years old now and had Covid in 2020. He was hospitalized for dehydration twice and has had problems since from muscle, eyesight, brain fog and verbal communication (finding the correct words). In the last 3 months, since he started taking MCT oils, walking and eating healthy, miraculous things are happening. He is playing golf and shooting pool again and has a very positive outlook. Hope this is helpful.

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@andipandi1223

My husband had a very successful company and went to MIT in his younger years. He is 71 years old now and had Covid in 2020. He was hospitalized for dehydration twice and has had problems since from muscle, eyesight, brain fog and verbal communication (finding the correct words). In the last 3 months, since he started taking MCT oils, walking and eating healthy, miraculous things are happening. He is playing golf and shooting pool again and has a very positive outlook. Hope this is helpful.

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Wonderful news! What are MCT oils?

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