Numerous people survive COVID-19 but continue to experience its impact months after they initially tested positive for the highly contagious virus. For some, the symptom that persists is anosmia, a condition in which the sense of smell temporarily or permanently disappears. To others, COVID-19 leaves behind brain fog.
Scientists are still perplexed why the illness that caused a pandemic leads to brain fog. Post-infection brain fog is characterized by difficulty concentration, confusion, and short-term memory loss. There are severe cases where patients reportedly even experienced delirium and psychosis.
Coronavirus-induced Brain Fog
A few theories try to explain why COVID-19 causes brain fog, but scientists seem to favor one. The theory suggests that brain fog happens when the cells responsible for fighting infection find their way into atypical places, including the brain. When this happens, these cells take up space, leaving less room for blood. Without blood, the brain will be starved with oxygen and, therefore, its normal function will be disrupted.
One important evidence that it is happening is the discovery of megakaryocytes
, which are large bone marrow cells responsible for producing platelets, in the autopsied brains of patients who died from COVID-19. Because of their size, megakaryocytes limit the amount of blood that flows into the brain.
This, according to experts, is a new phenomenon. Megakaryocytes have never traveled in the capillaries of the brain, which suggests that COVID-19 is responsible for it.
Another theory suggests that cytokines triggered by infection cause inflammation of the brain and, therefore, brain fog. Researchers have also found cytokines in the cerebrospinal fluid.
COVID-19 brain fog should be checked by doctors, especially if the symptoms are severe. However, to those who want to continue recovering at home, there are ways to help boost the amount of blood flowing into the brain. These activities may be able to ease brain fog.
Testing positive for COVID-19 is a very stressful experience. The illness has taken the lives of millions of people worldwide and left millions more with awful symptoms such as difficulty breathing. But, it is important for recovery to relax. Stress may only exacerbate the symptoms that the illness already brings.
Meditation is a tested and proven way to alleviate stress. It empties the mind of stressors which, as a result, make a person feel at peace. It also creates time within the day when the person is not looking at their smartphone or laptop.
The right massage
hits two birds in one stone by improving blood circulation throughout the body, including the brain, and relaxes the body and the mind.
Exercise is, perhaps, the best way to improve blood circulation throughout the body. As the heart rate rises, it pumps blood faster, sending fresh oxygen throughout the body, including the brain. That is why people think better after they exercise. More blood flowing in the brain improves cognitive performance.
However, a person does not have to do strenuous workouts to reap the benefits. A daily walk can improve
blood flow and replenish the oxygen arriving in the brain.
Exercise the Brain
The brain needs to be exercised, too. Although brain fog makes it harder to be productive, to fight it, one must push through it.
Instead of watching Netflix or YouTube, patients should do a crossword or play chess — anything that will use cognitive abilities. Thinking requires energy and, as a result, may increase blood flow to the brain.
Scientists have already proved this. When the brain is hard at work, decoding a mathematical problem, for example, triggers an increase in blood flow
. This ensures that the neurons will get enough oxygen and nutrients to help them function better.
So, while physical activities send oxygen-rich blood to the brain, mind exercises also encourage blood flow to the brain. Doing both could reduce brain fog and, eventually, make it disappear.
COVID-19 is still a new illness, and, every day, scientists are finding more information about it. Even experts are yet to fully understand COVID-19 and the condition it leaves patients who have survived infection. Millions of people around the world are called long-haulers who continue to live with lingering symptoms months after they became ill. Brain fog is one of the most common complaints.
Patients who continue to experience brain fog due to COVID-19 should seek immediate medical advice from a doctor and follow the tips above for a quicker recovery. If you’re one of them, don’t let the virus take over your life; take the necessary steps to ensure it doesn’t have lasting effects on you.