The term “brain fog” does not describe a medical condition but is actually a symptom of an underlying condition or change in medication. Brain fog can apply to many types of cognitive dysfunction including issues with memory, clarity, focus, concentration and reaction time, but it is important to remember that brain fog can mean different things to different people. While some levels of brain fog can be frustrating and even interfere with day-to-day activities, it is most often due to a very treatable cause with several simple fixes to alleviate the symptoms.
Here are 10 things that could be causing brain fog:
- Lack of sleep – Your body needs around eight hours of sleep per night. Without sleep, your brain can become fatigued, which leads to poor concentration.
- Depression – Studies have shown that depressive episodes can cause changes in the size and function of the areas of the brain that control mood, memory and decision making.
- Stress/anxiety – When you are stressed, you will usually have an increase in blood pressure. In return, this can cause your brain to become exhausted and decrease your ability to focus properly.
- Dehydration – It’s important to stay hydrated so that your body doesn’t lose essential levels of sodium and electrolytes, which can alter memory and attention.
- Poor nutrition – A lack of protein, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and vitamin B-12 in your diet could be playing a role. Talk to a nutritionist about which foods could be causing brain fog and try to eliminate those trigger foods.
- Prescribed medications – Some common medications that can change cognitive function include birth control (changes in hormone levels can affect memory and increase forgetfulness), chemotherapy drugs, antihistamines, blood pressure medications and sleep aids. A change in your dosage could also be the culprit.
- Substance abuse – Abusing substances, whether it be drugs, alcohol, or prescribed medications, can affect your brain. Substance abuse can alter the way nerve cells normally process information, which can cause the brain to not function properly.
- Degenerative neurological conditions –Conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and muscular dystrophy cause a progressive loss of structure or function on neurons in the brain. In some cases, this could lead to decreased cognitive abilities, decreased alertness or difficulty reading.
- Repeated head trauma/concussion – Head injuries can cause both physical and chemical damage in the brain, which can lead to feeling a little fuzzy. Two of the most common reported issues of concussionsare confusion and memory loss.
- Brain tumor – As a tumor grows, it can create pressure on the brain. Depending on where in the brain the tumor is located, it could impact the surrounding areas that may control memory, mood, anxiety or psychiatric symptoms.
Most often brain fog is not a sign of a major neurologic condition and your physician will work to rule out the most common causes. If symptoms persist, you should seek medical attention with your primary care physician.