Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lupus Brain fog

     How embarrassing is it when someone asks a simple question and you have no answer?  I always seem to have problems retrieving information from my brain, it seems like such simple questions seem so complex.  It is very embarrassing when someone at a doctors office asks you "what's your birth date?", blank stare, or at your child's school, "what teacher does he have?", blank stare.  These are not questions that take much thought for a normal person but when you have lupus, remembering any information seems like a very hard task.  Two days ago I had a parent/teacher conference for both of my children, and simple questions were asked and blanks were drawn, of course by me not by the faculty at the school.  I was mortified by my forgetfulness, I thought that these people are going to think I am a complete moron!  

     Other ways in which my memory problems are troublesome is when I get lost going places I have been many times before.  I get very confused and make wrong turns and must pull over and think.  My son always tells me to just use my GPS in my car, but I have been here so many times it is not a new place, I don't need directions.  I get sweaty and so out of sorts that by the time we get to our destination I am completely disoriented and exhausted.  My spelling also has suffered not that I was ever a proficient speller, but I could spell simple words that I must look up or ask my husband how to spell.  I have even forgotten how to tun on my car.   A year or so ago, I was sitting in my car ready to go somewhere, of course I don't remember where, and I did not know how I was going to turn on my car.  With keys in hand I sat in the drivers seat and I was looking for a button or switch or something that said ON.  Yes, I was this confused, after about 5 minutes of frustration I found the key hole and looked at my keys, and found my aha moment, Opra so brilliantly spoke about during her show.  I knew then that this was a real problem not just a normal laps of memory.

     Here is some information on Lupus Brain issues....

kim nault - lupus brain fog - the lupus magazine

Cognitively Lupus
Understanding the Unseen Realm of Lupus Brain Fog
by Kim Nault ©

First published in The Lupus Magazine

An estimated 70-90 % of SLE patients will experience the infamous lupus brain fog. This is the most common form of central nervous system involvement in SLE and can be mild to severe, and vary from person to person. The lupus brain fog is classified as a manifestation of organic brain disease and is of one of the 19 manifestations of NP-SLE/neuropsychiatric SLE that has a broad spectrum of manifestations, including psychiatric disorders and neurological syndromes of the central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous systems. Each manifestation is vast and complicating and far outside the scope of this sole article.

Sadly, the actual field of NP-SLE is still in its infancy, there is not much research done on this vast topic and not too many doctors fully understand this form of organ involvement. Many assume that the brain fog of lupus is just some quirky annoying problem, that it is not that bad, not that serious of a problem. For more than half the patients with brain fog it will be a quirky, sometimes an annoying and even at other times a comical issue, but for others it will be very disabling. In addition, lupus brain fog notably fluctuates with and without disease activity.

I have heard many heart-wrenching stories, of patients whose very own doctors have ignored or even minimized their conditions and complaints as mere irritants. Some medical practitioners do not regard the lupus brain fog as a disabling issue that reduces their patient’s quality of life. This is unacceptable. Lastly, if such large amounts of lupus patients are living and battling with the lingering consequences of brain fog, than why isn’t someone in the research field really pounding the scientific pavement for us to pinpoint the exact cause of this and yield our patient population better treatments? We deserve better diagnostic tools and therapies in our lives while we try to climb out of the trenches of the cognitively challenged.

There are also a high number of lupus patients with the secondary Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome/APS/Hughes Syndrome as well as those with concurrent fibromyalgia, both who seem to encounter more obvious signs of the insidious brain fog. There are many running jokes among patients regarding the effects of the brain fog monster in their lives. While we have to admit that some of the brain fog incidents are indeed hilarious and even downright entertaining to our loved ones there yet remains the silent population within the brain fog group who are overwhelmed with the mental and emotional impairments brought on by NP-SLE.

The lupus brain fog can cause:

• Cognitive Dysfunction (impaired abstract, concentration & reasoning skills)
• Short-term Memory Loss
• Verbal Fluency Dysfunction (difficulty finding words)
• Confusion
• Impaired Recall
• Depression
• Anxiety

Patients struggle with the cognitive impairments and the ripple effects that it has on their lives. To some patients it is embarrassing, frustrating and certainly regarded as incapacitating. I recall a forum discussion where Angie Phillips (NP-SLE/APS patient-advocate, founder/ creator of Ardent Cerebrations: Musings of Lupus Survivors!), earnestly explained that for her, the disabling effects of NP-SLE have been far more devastating than that of the pain caused by SLE. That she has incurred more disability from the cognitive issues relating to CNS lupus, that she would gladly take the pain and have her mental faculties restored to the way they used to be. I too, have described to my loved ones that I have teetered on near organ failure and have accumulated physical impairments, but not to have the consistency of my cognitive sharpness and verbal fluency has rendered me more defeated than anything else I have ever faced.

A few months ago, while at my primary doctor’s office we were discussing organic brain disease and she explained that neurologists had discovered that commencing to treat stroke patients with SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) antidepressants immediately following stroke promoted faster neuron repair and recovery from their strokes. She surmised that if antidepressants use was benefiting recovering stroke victims than people with organic brain diseases will also benefit from using them. Before you scoff at the idea of swallowing yet another pill, you might consider having a frank discussion with your doctor about whether you may or may not benefit from taking an antidepressant.

If you have a health insurance coverage that will cover neuropsychological testing, you may consider having that done. Once the tests are completed, the psychologist will make recommendations of activities that you can do to exercise areas of your brain that are affected by the brain fog. I know some patients who do brain games to exercise their minds and keep themselves as sharp as possible. There are very good games on the internet developed by neurologists and neuropsychologists, and a small amount of time surfing the Web may provide you with a good site to frequent. Do understand that lupus brain fog will wax and wane, some days will be better than others will. Do not be hard on yourself!

Coping and Strategizing – Lupie Cognitive Survival Tips:

• Do not multi-task (it can prove dangerous)
• Do not overbook your daily schedule
• Do not over commit yourself
• Prioritize appointments/events/activities (don’t double book things on the same day)
• Determine your peak energy time of the day (schedule needs around that time)
• Reduce background noises when needing to focus
• Use only one calendar (mark doctor’s appointments in one color)
• Set timers for reminders (cellular phones and your PC have different applications)
• Note pads (one for pocketbook, one for computer desk and one for kitchen countertop)
• Keep things simple
• Learn to say “no” (we do not have to commit to every event or activity)

Do not be hard on yourself! Explain to your loved ones about your frustrations and concerns with how lupus is affecting your cognitive abilities. Some of our loved ones may even have simple suggestions to simplify things in our lives, which may foster better memory and peace of mind. Please do not try to tough things out on your own; this will not produce great results. Be willing to ask others for assistance with things. If you are a type-A control freak of a Lupie, try the Zen Lupie practice of not being a control freak! Living with a chronic illness while life whirls about us, can be at times very stressful. How often do I forget that quality of life begins right smack between my very own ears? As in life, some days will be easier than others will and when we lose our way, another veteran patient stands ready to hand feed us morsels that will lead us out of darkness and place us back on the path of inner strength and hope.

*The best resource in your healthcare is your own doctor. The Lupus Magazine does not endorse or recommend any medication or drug company. This article is informational only and should not replace the medical care of your doctor.


  1. Good morning Marissa..

    So.... can totally relate to todays 'FOG" blog...

    The Fog became quite distressing over the years and one of the many reasons why I had to stop working, just couldn't think clearly... He he, I was the type-A control freak Lupie... N, now, I am the practicing Zen Lupie...

    Went to the optometrist last month, he asked what my latest medications were... I totally forgot what meds I take daily... I thought I would never forget something that important.. Hmmmm... Admitting defeat I now have a list attached to my drivers license...

    Thanks again for your blog, nice to be able to relate and not feel like a freak... Sending hugs and hope you and the Family are well.... N have an awesome weekend...

    ... PS.... I almost look intelligent with my new reading glasses.. Yaaay..

  2. Seek, That is sad that you had to quit your job over brain fog. It is hard to explain to people because they think their normal forgetfulness is the same but it so isn't. Some days are worse than others but at least after my diagnosis I had an excuse for my absent mindedness. I would take mine over my pain and overall feeling of malaise though. But that is just me! Thanks I hope you are doing well today. All the best!! I hope you enjoy your weekend too, you may have beautiful weather there in Australia!!

  3. Wow... like the new look of your blog, it changed before my eyes. Awesome work..

    Weather is magic, umm 90F during the day n 70 at night.... I live in the tropics of North Queensland, rainforest , ocean and the Great Barrier Reef all within a 50 minute drive from home..

    Had to move to a more suitable climate and ended up near heaven... Just wish the SLE would give me a break to enjoy it all again.... Grrr... Always remain positive..

    . Hope winter? is going to be kind for you... always fires my Lupus up when its cold...

    Thanks for your support, so appreciated... Hugs S

  4. Hi Marissa,

    I really appreciate this article. I was only diagnosed as a Lupus sufferer a few days ago, but after looking at all the symptoms, especially the brain fog, I now understand why this has happened and a part of me is glad that I'm not going crazy.

    I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this right now. I don't want my family to know because I know they will not understand, and I'm worried about how my manager and the people at work will react if I tell them.

    It is awful at work, and I recently had my gallbladder out, which I suspect has increased the brain fog for the moment. I couldn't seem to get it together after my op in early December and still can't. If I get stressed, my confusion gets worse and my memory is shocking. If I don't write things down, I just forget.

    Anyway, thanks for posting this, and I have bookmarked your fantastic blog site, and hope you are feeling okay at the moment.

    I am glad to have found your blog. Thanks.


  5. OG, Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I am sorry about your recent diagnosis, and I know it is a scary and confusing time. If you read through my blog there is a post called the 5 phases of grief, you may want to read it, it may help bring some understanding to the emotions that you are going through. I would tell your family but I would be prepared with information to hand to them, it is important that they know you have a serious medical disease. Work, that can be tricky. Sometimes people are amazed with how supportive people become after learning they have lupus and others have the opposite experience. It is much harder for someone with lupus to recover from a surgery than a normal person, so what you are going through is a lupus thing. I hope you recover soon. I am happy that you bookmarked my blog!! Best wishes and gentle hugs.

  6. Also, OG, you can follow my blog and subscribe via e-mail. Then you will get an e-mail when I update my blog and know that there is a new post. The follow is in the top left hand corner and the subscribe is towards the bottom of the blog. xo

  7. Thank you for writing your blog and researching the info.
    Some days are good and some not so good. xo

  8. Hello Okmom23,
    It's mrs.lupus but my name doesn't come up on here anymore. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I am sorry you have lupus, gentle hugs. xo

  9. I love tbis site it has helped understand and cope with lupus. I know I am not alone and I have resources thanks

    1. Ruthie,
      Thank you so much for your comments. I am so glad that it has helped you so much. Gentle hugs. xo