Experiencing Brain Fog From Long Covid? Here’s How To Cope 

Brain fog is a term used to describe feelings of mental fuzziness which can occur due to a multitude of reasons. The idea of brain fog has become more prevalent in recent years as it’s one of the most common symptoms associated with long Covid. 

Scientists are in the beginning stages of understanding how exactly Covid affects the brain, but there’s an increasing amount of evidence supporting that even mild to moderate Covid-19 cases can cause brain damage and trigger problems with memory, concentration, and overall functioning. 

In most of the cases associated with Covid-19, the brain fog typically resolves itself naturally within a matter of weeks. However, some individuals are developing chronic brain fog that persists for months, and maybe even years. 

According to James Giordano,a professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center, “there’s something unique about the brain fog that comes with COVID. With most of these other conditions, brain fog typically resolves when the infection clears or the treatment stops. COVID, however, seems to cause a much more intense and sometimes long-lasting, widespread inflammatory effect — and the brain fog can persist for weeks or months on end.”

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“The brain fog people experience with long COVID is most likely a result of direct and indirect inflammatory effects on the brain.”

Covid is known for triggering a massive inflammatory response within the body that could potentially cause tissue damage throughout the body depending on how severe the case is. Covid-19 can also directly impact cells surrounding the brain, which creates yet another inflammatory response which could result in brain fog symptoms. 

A recent study found that even mild to moderate cases of Covid can cause damage to the brain and a potential decline in cognitive function. 

“Now we are really seeing inflammatory changes in the brain, and those inflammatory changes disrupt the functional architecture of the way brain nodes and networks are operating to control certain aspects of cognition and behavior,” Giordano said.

“That’s one of the really fascinating things about this virus: Each body that it goes into, it can affect so differently. This makes it very hard to predict who will develop brain fog.” said Dr. Mill Etienne, an associate professor of neurology and medicine at New York Medical College.

“Age seems to also play a role, as older people are more at risk for experiencing cognitive issues after COVID. But even some young, otherwise healthy people diagnosed with COVID have found themselves struggling with brain fog,” according to Giordano. 

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“You don’t have to have a severe case of COVID in order to have this long COVID syndrome,” Etienne said.

Giordano said the “specific symptoms of brain fog also vary from person to person. Some people experience fatigue after the slightest level of physical or mental exertion. It’s not just that they feel tired; they literally feel like they can’t do this anymore — in other words, they have to stop doing anything and just kind of rest.”

So what exactly can you do if you’re experiencing some level of brain fog after being sick with Covid? Etienne says most of the time the brain fog will clear up naturally over time, but unfortunately that’s not the case for everyone. 

Giordano advised “if you’ve been battling brain fog after COVID, try to acknowledge that you have it and recognize its impact on your daily functioning and quality of life. Consult with a physician and be specific about what brain fog feels like to you. Doing so will help your doctor develop a tailored treatment plan that will help mitigate the specific effects you are experiencing. In certain instances, medications and anti-inflammatory drugs may be recommended.”

It’s also recommended in general for individuals who are experiencing brain fog to keep as physically active as they can. While it may be difficult to do so, depending on how severe of a case you have, keeping your body moving keeps your brain active and can help it build up recuperative skills. 

“Lastly, get adequate rest and stay hydrated. People usually take those things for granted, but in this particular case, it’s rather important because both rest and hydration can be very recuperative to brain metabolism,” Giordano said.

Covid-19 Mutation

Majority Of Covid-19 ‘Long-Haulers’ Experiencing Multiple Brain-Related Symptoms 

According to a new study, 85% of Covid-19 “long-haulers” are experiencing at least four lingering neurological symptoms even if they weren’t hospitalized for their initial illness. The lingering symptoms include brain fog, headache, and the loss of smell and/or taste. 

The study was published in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology earlier this week. Researchers claimed to analyze information from 100 Covid-19 long haulers from 21 states. All participants were seen in person or over video conference at the Neuro Covid-19 Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The study went from May-November of 2020, and none of the participants were hospitalized when initially infected with the virus. 

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All participants claimed to experience Covid symptoms for more than six weeks, and on average they were seen for four to five months after their initial infection. Half of the participants had previously tested positive while the other half had tested negative but were still experiencing consistent Covid symptoms. The researchers of the study believed that all the participants who tested negative in the study likely did have the virus, but got it at the point in the pandemic when getting a test was nearly impossible.

“85% of participants reported at least four neurological symptoms. The most common symptom was ‘brain fog’ or trouble thinking, reported by 81% of participants; followed by headaches, reported by 68%; and numbness or tingling, reported by 60% of participants. More than half reported problems with their sense of taste or smell; 47% reported dizziness; 30% reported blurred vision; and 29% reported ringing in the ears,” according to the article. 

According to a previous study posted by Live Science Magazine last year, “‘long COVID-19’ is an important emerging entity requiring multidisciplinary expertise and care. It’s unclear how many people have long COVID, but some studies suggest that about 30% of people with COVID-19 experience lingering symptoms up to nine months after their diagnosis.”

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Study author Dr. Igor Koralnik claimed in a news conference that it’s likely millions of people are experiencing long Covid symptoms, so these studies are important. He also noted that more than 40% of the participants claimed to have struggled with anxiety and depression throughout their lives pre-pandemic, so more research is currently being done to see if there’s a link to mental illness and the long-Covid symptoms. 

“About 70% of participants were women, which matches the sex ratio seen in some other autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, which affects three times more women than men,” the authors wrote.

The authors also noted that this study was extremely preliminary and small, pointing out that a majority of the patients were white, and there’s a chance a lot of the long-haulers with negative Covid tests may have never had the virus to begin with. Researchers are planning on continuing these research efforts and are starting with analyzing how certain immune systems respond to Covid-19 proteins.

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Who’s At The Greatest Risk Of Experiencing ‘Long Covid’?

A recent study linked age and number of Covid-19 symptoms in a positive individual to longer-lasting health problems brought on by the virus. What they found specifically is that women aged 50-60 are at the greatest risk of developing “long Covid,” which is when positive Covid patients experience ongoing symptoms for weeks, or months, after they’ve already beat the virus and are considered to be negative. 

Dr Claire Steves and Professor Tim Spector at King’s College London led the study which analyzed data from 4,182 Covid Symptom Study App users who had been consistently logging their health status after testing positive for the virus. 

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In general, based on the App data, women were twice as likely to suffer from Covid-19 symptoms that lasted longer than a month when compared to men in the same age bracket, however, after the age of 60 everyone’s risk level is relatively the same; under the assumption that they don’t have any other underlying health conditions. 

Increased age was a general association that came along with the heightened risk levels for long Covid. 22% of people aged over 70 in the study reported suffering from symptoms for four or more weeks after their initial diagnosis. For comparison only 10% of individuals aged between 18 and 30-years-old reported the same experience. 

Gender differences only appeared for individuals aged between 50 and 60-years-old, where the data suggested a women’s risk was nearly double that of a man in the same age range. Professor Spector claims these results aren’t entirely surprising, as the same trend exists for autoimmune diseases in general in relation to how they impact men versus women of that age. 

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“Things like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are two to three times more common in women until just before menopause, and then it becomes more similar. My guess is that gender differences in the way the immune system responds to coronavirus may account for this difference in risk.”

The study has also not been peer reviewed yet but it is available for viewing in preprint. The results also showed that individuals who experience five or more Covid-19 symptoms within their first week of developing the virus are at a heightened risk for experiencing long Covid symptoms as well. 

 “There’s certainly a group of long Covid sufferers that have this multi-system immune–like disease, where they get gastrointestinal problems, skin rashes, nerve problems and brain fog – so the whole body is involved rather than just one bit,” claimed Spector, who went on to explain that the immune system is likely working differently in individuals who experience these multiple body system symptoms. Those individual’s immune systems have to work a lot harder and for a lot longer to get the entire body back on track when compared to patients who contract the virus but only experience minimal to no symptoms. 

The study also suggested that individuals who have preexisting health conditions such as being medically overweight or having asthma and other respiratory diseases could increase ones risk to long Covid.

Dermatologists Warn Of Potential Skin Conditions That Could Be Symptoms For Covid-19

Dermatologists all across the world are collecting data and warning their patients about potential overlooked symptoms for Covid-19 that relate to our skin. The two main conditions they’re warning about are skin rashes/irritation and “pseudo-frostbite,” which is what occurs when a person is experiencing all the symptoms of frostbite without actually being exposed to a cold environment. 

Dermatologists and skin experts alike began looking into these symptoms because many viral illnesses, such as the chickenpox or mono, are often accompanied by specific skin rashes as a result of the body’s heightened inflammatory response which occurs to fight off the infection. While there hasn’t been a ton of research put into skin irritation and its relation to the Covid-19 virus, some patients have exhibited symptoms on their skin. ‘

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One expert recently wrote a piece for the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, and described the skin conditions of 22 patients who were suffering from the coronavirus and skin irritations in Italy. The patients all had a red rash on their torsos, while a few of them developed hives that looked like chickenpox. 

In another statement issued and signed by over 400 dermatologists in France, experts emphasized that almost all of the Covid-19 patients that they’ve seen had some sort of hive, red-rash, or frostbite-like lesions on their bodies. The dermatologists described the rashes to be a “rare but specific Covid-19-associated skin manifestation.”

This skin-manifestation is what experts are referring to as “pseudo-frostbite” or “Covid toes” as it mainly has been appearing in patients’ toes. There have been over 100 cases of the condition reported in the US, according to the Covid-19 symptom registry kept by the American Academy of Dermatology. Within these cases patients have been described to have “purple, bruise-like bumps and swelling” on their toes and other extremities.

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“I’ve seen all of the [skin] conditions among suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients in New York City, and found the range of possible symptoms to be remarkable. For a virus to do all of these things that it’s doing within the first five months of existing in humans is pretty striking to me. Patients who end up hospitalized often develop a pink, itchy rash across their torso and limbs, while others develop hives or, less commonly, a chickenpox-like rash,” said Dr. Alisa Femia, director of inpatient dermatology and a specialist in autoimmune connective tissue disease at NYU Langone.

Femia went on to discuss how it’s difficult for health care workers to determine if these rashes are actually related to the virus itself, or more so related to the medications being used to help treat the virus. If that’s the case, these skin irritations are a side-effect, not a symptom, which would be an extremely important distinction to make. 

Individuals who have also experienced “Covid toes” haven’t experienced any other symptoms for the virus, which as a result denied them the opportunity to get tested, making it even more difficult to determine what’s causing these irritations and rashes. The biggest concern, according to Femia, is determining if these conditions are the result of a blood-flow issue brought on by the coronavirus. If that’s the case, experts need to know sooner than later, as small blood clots within the skin could mean there are other blood clots within the body that we can’t see, which can lead to even more serious issues. 

Other dermatologists are hoping to use these inflammatory responses to help find a drug treatment for Covid-19. Some experts are studying the way that traditional anti-inflammatory medicines/topicals not only combat these virus-related skin conditions, but the virus itself. Only time will tell how related these symptoms are to the virus, but for now, like with every other aspect of this pandemic, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Coronavirus Blood Test

Loss Of Smell And Taste Deemed New Symptom For Coronavirus

Anosmia is the loss of the sense of smell and ageusia is a diminished sense of taste that usually comes as a result of anosmia. These two ailments have recently become two signs of potential COVID-19 infection based on multiple cases in which those who contracted coronavirus described their symptoms as including a lack of smell and taste. 

Doctors from the United Kingdom recently reported that they’ve received multiple calls from international colleagues claiming that they’re forcing any individual who’s experiencing a loss in their sense of smell or taste to self-quarantine themselves, even if they’re not experiencing any other symptoms. 

“[We’re] urging health care workers to use personal protective equipment when treating any patients who have lost their senses of smell, and advised against performing nonessential sinus endoscopy procedures on anyone, because the virus replicates in the nose and the throat and an exam can prompt coughs or sneezes that expose the doctor to a high level of virus,” said Professor Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society.

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Reports from Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus initially emerged, specifically stated that ear, nose, throat, and even eye specialists (otolaryngologist’s) were the most infected healthcare provider demographic in the country, likely due to being exposed to the virus through their work long before we knew the extent of damage COVID-19 would cause. 

According to data provided by the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO), 30% of 2,000 coronavirus patients in South Korea stated they experienced some level of anosmia as their most intense symptom, these cases were also reported to be the most mild. The AAO states that the evidence now indicates a complete loss or reduction in one’s sense of smell or taste is a significant symptom of COVID-19, and any individual experiencing such should be tested immediately and self-quarantine, as a majority of the patients who experienced these symptoms didn’t report having any other ailments, despite being positive. 

China, Italy, and Iran, have all reported a high rate of positive coronavirus results among their otolaryngologist population, many of which resulted in death due to an extensive amount of time in which these individuals were left untreated, which has made protecting healthcare providers a top priority. Doctors have concluded that an individual who seems completely healthy could be unknowingly carrying and spreading the virus because they aren’t experiencing any of the traditional symptoms to cause concern. 

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“Roughly half of the patients have experienced a smell or taste disorder, and the sensory loss usually presented after the first symptoms of respiratory illness, but could be used to distinguish people who should be tested. The patients regained their ability to smell after a few days or weeks, and the loss occurred regardless of how sick they got or whether they were congested. Using nasal drops or sprays did not help,” said a physician who studied a cluster of coronavirus patients in Germany.

The main priority needs to be testing, and equal distribution of that testing among all citizens. There are still hundreds of thousands of individuals in America alone who do have the traditional symptoms associated with COVID-19, but are still waiting to be granted access to proper testing. Many of these patients have also reported a loss of smell or taste, despite not having any sort of congestion issues. 

Staying informed, distanced from the public, and clean are the best things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting and spreading this virus. If you’re experiencing any sort of symptoms, regardless of how minor, don’t hesitate to call a professional to get your best course of action. It’s important, now more than ever, to be totally diligent and responsible when it comes to our health.