Dealing with "brain fog" after recovery from COVID-19

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Jan 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-08 08:00:34-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Mental lag is something doctors have been studying in head-injury patients for years. But along comes 2020 and the coronavirus, and suddenly, people who've recovered from COVID-19 are complaining about cognitive issues.

"Mainly headaches, dizziness, delirium imbalance, and cognitive problems," says Co-Director of Banner-University Medical Center Tucson Stroke Program, Dr. Mohammad El-Ghanem. "We're talking about things like short-term memory loss and difficulty memorizing things that you could in the past."

It's called brain fog. And while COVID-19 is mostly a respiratory disease, it can affect other organs like the brain. Doctors say the symptoms of brain fog go back to the lack of oxygen in the brain while your body was battling COVID - even if your symptoms weren't that bad.

"But we found in those mild cases, the patients had low oxygen for a prolonged period of time, even though, the body does not recognize it," says El-Ghanem.

And whether your case was mild or severe, the chances of those symptoms sticking around forever are slim. But unfortunately, with a novel disease like COVID-19, health professionals don't have a crystal ball.

"There's no really certain exact time window when you will go back to normal, like brain function and un-fogginess," says El-Ghanem. "But if the major disease that caused the brain fog is gone, usually we see improvement with time."

But if you're feeling anxious and want to get things moving faster...

"Keep stimulating your brain like reading, exercising, going back to a healthy, normal life," says El-Ghanem. "That would make this recovery faster than you might expect."

The symptoms can be frustrating, and at times even scary. But as this virus continues to evolve, doctors say more research will be done. And with more questions answered, the future will look a little less foggy.