New Research Points to The Potential Cause of Post-COVID ‘Brain Fog’

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Many people who have recovered from Covid-19 have a long lasting side effect that they didn’t expect. We’re not talking about a cough that won’t go away or not feeling as energetic as usual. While some people do have trouble kicking symptoms like fatigue and a cough, a lot of people also suffer from brain fog.

Maybe you have had Covid and have noticed that you’ve recently had trouble remembering things but you didn’t realize that was a post Covid symptom until now. You’re not alone.

According to new research from the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), approximately 67% of people who have recovered from Covid experience brain fog. Even people who experienced mild Covid-19 symptoms can experience brain fog.

Researchers believe the brain fog is a result of the virus altering a person’s spinal fluid. In a recent study, researchers from UCSF and Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, looked at the cerebrospinal fluid of 17 adults approximately 10 months after they had recovered from Covid. Thirteen of these adults had brain fog symptoms. Ten of the adults with brain fog symptoms had abnormalities in their cerebrospinal fluid. All four of the participants without brain fog symptoms had normal cerebrospinal fluid.

According to the study’s lead author, Joanna Hellmuth, MD, MHS, of the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, “They manifest as problems remembering recent events, coming up with names or words, staying focused, and issues with holding onto and manipulating information, as well as slowed processing speed.”

According to Hellmuth, “If people tell us they have new thinking and memory issues, I think we should believe them rather than require that they meet certain severity criteria.”

The big question is why is Covid changing the spinal fluid of some people? According to Hellmuth, it might be because of the immune system. She explained, “It’s possible that the immune system, stimulated by the virus, may be functioning in an unintended pathological way.” She added, “This would be the case even though the individuals did not have the virus in their bodies.” 

Participants who experienced brain fog had an average of 2.5 risk factors compared to only one risk factor for people who did not experience brain fog. Risk factors include hypertension, diabetes, ADHD, depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, and heavy alcohol or stimulant use.

Covid-19 is not the first virus to cause cognitive issues. Other viruses that can cause cognitive issues include HIV, Epstein-Barr, hepatitis C and other coronaviruses including SARS and MERS.

Have you recovered from Covid-19? If so, have you experienced brain fog since your recovery? Do you have any of the risk factors for brain fog?