Fibro Fog

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German philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche once said that “the advantage of bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.”

Do you feel like your brain has left your body or that it is slipping into the twilight zone?  Are you unable to formulate a complete sentence, complete simple tasks, spell, and do you have the attention span of a fruit fly?  All of these symptoms may be a cognitive function impairment associated with Fibromyalgia commonly referred to as “Fibro Fog”.  Fibro fog is not a psychological condition.  It is not Alzheimer’s.  Alzheimer’s makes you forget how to use a toothbrush.  Fibro fog can make you lose it.  These problems also mimic known learning disorders such as dyslexia (reading problems), dysphasia (speech) and dyscalculia (mathematical, time and spatial problems).  If you suspect that you may have a recognized learning disorder, speak to your doctor.  Learning difficulties and low serotonin have been linked.  A diagnosis may help you obtain reasonable accommodation in the workplace or strengthen a claim for disability. 

Researchers have found that Fibro fog sufferers annually lose more than three times as much brain tissue than healthy people in the same age bracket.  And, some of the loss occurs in areas of the brain that control memory and concentration.   Fibro fog can happen at any time, may vary in intensity and is usually more severe when accompanied by an increase in pain.  As a result, Fibro fog can seriously impact people’s quality of life.

The key elements that contribute to Fibro fog are depression, lack of restful sleep, chronic pain, certain medications, poor nutrition, decreased oxygen flow to the brain and stress.  It is very important to seek treatment for all of these problems as it may help your memory issues. 

Most researchers agree that sleep deprivation is the primary culprit of Fibro fog.   During the deeper level of sleep called delta wave, the brain formulates newly acquired information and integrates it into the brain.  The inability to get sufficient delta wave sleep impairs the ability to maintain normal mental efficiency and to recall information.  Evaluate your mattress and purchase new bedding if you suspect that it may be part of your inability to get restful sleep.  Maintain a regular sleep routine by going to bed and waking at the same time each day.  Overall, proper sleep hygiene is very important.

Processing pain signals caused by Fibromyalgia can be overwhelming to the brain.  It reduces the amount of time the brain may spend on other activities such as memory.  Chronic pain is also responsible for large amounts of stress which can also contribute to short term memory loss.

There are supplements and medications that may help with Fibro fog.  Some popular supplement choices are Ginko-biloba, 5-HTP, Phosphatidylserine, Omega-3 fish oil, D-ribose, Rhodiola, Sam-e, Theanine, L-carnitine, B vitamins and Choline.  There is not a lot of evidence to support the effectiveness of supplements in relation to cognitive function.  However, some people including nutritionists and doctors say that they do help.  It is important to advise your doctor if you decide to add any supplements to your drug regimen.

Prescription medication choices for Fibro fog include Provigil, Nuvigil and Adderall.  Many doctors are still not familiar with these options and may be reluctant to prescribe them.  Taking stimulants can be compared to borrowing energy that you don’t really have.  You may feel better while using them but the after effect may not be worth it. 

Exercise and mental stimulation may also help with Fibro fog.  Tai Chi, Qigong, swimming, yoga and walking are all helpful.  Try a new hobby such as puzzles, genealogy, needlework, reading or anything that requires learning to some degree.  Cognitive training programs and virtual reality games that are used on the computer may improve memory and critical thinking skills as well.  All of these activities have the added benefit of lessening your focus on your symptoms and being chronically ill. 

Basic Tenants for Managing Fibro Fog:

  • Respect your body’s need for rest.
  • Follow a daily routine.
  • Pick the best time of day to accomplish complicated tasks.
  • Be flexible with postponing, changing or canceling activities. 
  • Keep a reminder list and use post it notes.
  • Break tasks down into more manageable increments to avoid confusion.
  • Organize your home and de-clutter it.
  • Avoid situations where you may become over stimulated by noise, and light.
  • Learn how to control stress.
  • Slow down and allow time to formulate your thoughts when you lack mental clarity.
  • Use humor to cope.
  • Don’t be embarrassed by Fibro fog.  Look at it as an opportunity to educate people.  A lack of information leads to speculation.  Plan a response ahead of time for when an awkward situation may arise. 

By recognizing the triggers that may cause or increase Fibro fog you can lessen the impact on your life.

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