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RA + Brain Fog

It’s 9:52 AM. I’ve been sitting in my office, at my desk, for two hours now. I’ve eaten my granola bar, sipped my iced coffee, and been through my inbox.

The minutes continue to tick by on the clock, but I am struggling to focus. I check my social media and listen to my voicemails. I make a to-do list, I fill out my gratitude journal and then, I stare at the computer screen.

My brain feels stuck

It’s been time to get into heads-down work for longer than I care to admit, but I’m stuck. My brain feels like it’s still asleep. My thoughts are struggling to push through the molasses. Nothing feels clear. Nothing feels logical.

I wish this was a rare occurrence.

I wish I could tell you that it’s because last night's sleep was terrible (which is actually nothing out of the ordinary for me), or because I have a million extra things on my mind (actually untrue at the moment). But, those would be lies.

What's the source of my brain fog?

I struggle with brain fog as a result of, due to, and alongside my rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Sometimes, I wonder if it’s due to the medications I take to manage my condition. I just had my Remicade infusion a few days ago, so I know it’s in high concentrations in my body (thank goodness).

Other times, I think it’s probably related to the levels of inflammation in my body or the damage that years of inflammation have left behind.

I still like to think of myself as mentally sharp

The truth is, today it feels overwhelmingly challenging.

While I’ve lived with the symptoms of RA since childhood and have been diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases for the last five years, I still like to think of myself as mentally sharp, organized, and clear as day.

This morning, finding the words to share this experience with you - it’s much harder than I’d like to admit. It makes me frustrated. It makes me wonder how my cognition and clarity will decline as I age.

3 tips for dealing with brain fog

As I stare at my computer screen between sentences, I think about what I wish someone would’ve told me in my early days of dealing with RA when it came to cognition. And I think about what I’d tell someone today who might be struggling with brain fog alongside RA. Here are the top three things I'd recommend.

1. An autoimmune disease like RA affects not just your body, but your head and your heart as well. Some of those effects may not show up for years, and others may be present from the very beginning. You can never be prepared for when they come, but you can practice giving yourself grace along the way in handling them one day at a time.

2. Restoration looks different for each person. On days like today, I'm not reaching for my heating pad or my tens unit to soothe aching joints. Instead, I'm drinking extra water, getting some fresh air, focusing on eating things that are good for my body, taking mental breaks from work, and communicating with those around me that my deliverables may be delayed on bad days.

3. Write down everything. I actually often run duplicate lists on paper and in the Notes app on my cell phone - just in case I think of something when I don't have paper in front of me. It's too easy to forget things when everything feels foggy.

Do you struggle with brain fog? What else would you add to the list above?

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