Brain Fog: The Impact of RA on Mental Functioning
Results from the 2019 RA In America Survey showed that 61 percent of survey participants living with RA experienced brain fog within the last month of taking the survey.
Along with depression and anxiety, brain fog has a significant impact on mental health and well-being; this is even more true during a dreaded RA flare. When coupled with RA fatigue, brain fog negatively affects the ability to be productive and greatly interferes with work.
Personal stories of RA brain fog and forgetfulness
I’m Fogged Up
"I want to feel like the rest of my peers: energized, sharp, and motivated. Instead, it feels like a challenge to literally just think. Ask me to remember what I did yesterday and it will take me at least a few minutes to recall. Forget about asking me what I did last week, last month, or last year. Usually, I end up cheating and checking my calendar or photos to jog my memory."
Brain Fog and RA – What Do Researchers Know?
Mariah Z. Leach
" Brain fog can create challenges with thinking, learning, remembering, concentrating, and performing other mental tasks. A more technical term would be “cognitive dysfunction.” But whatever you call it, difficulty thinking can also affect physical function, which can make it even harder for people with RA to manage daily tasks."
Can The Fog Be Lifting?
"If I feel foggy (and even when I don’t), I try to stay especially organized. I am a firm believer in lists and calendars and having everyday tasks and appointments all accounted for on a list and/or in my calendar is very helpful to keep me on point. When I am feeling “foggy”, I try to do the most mentally challenging work when I am my most rested and pain-free. That helps in avoiding the frustration I would feel otherwise which would only serve to intensify the brain fog!"
When did you last experience brain fog?
Chronic Inflammation, Dopamine, & Motivation
"In other words, when you’re sick or if you have an inflammatory process going on in your body, some of the dopamine in your brain is needed to heal these problems. In the cases where people have chronic, autoimmune diseases such as RA, the dopamine is constantly getting recalibrated and drained (in a sense) to try to heal the inflammation."
The Pain Brain Drain
"The unsettling feeling of not being able to trust my memory or cognition began flooding my body, and then I realized that it’s a familiar feeling. Suddenly, I knew exactly what was happening to my brain: I had been in too much physical pain during those conversations to remember them accurately. Often when it comes to rheumatoid arthritis/rheumatoid disease [RA/RD] brain fog, it stems from my fatigue."
The RA In America 2019 Survey was conducted online from June through September of 2019. A total of 3736 people completed the survey.
What lifestyle changes have you found to be most helpful in managing your RA?
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