Brain fog (cognitive dysfunction or brain fatigue) is not normally listed as a symptom of RA. But many patients report problems with memory, an inability to concentrate, and confusion.
Possible Causes of Brain Fog
When you see the list of RA symptoms, memory loss and focusing problems are not surprising. Pain, loss of sleep, fatigue, low mood, and the possible side effects of medication all take their toll. And RA is a risk factor for fibromyalgia, which itself is notorious for causing brain fog.
Research studies are trying to nail down the specific causes. Corticosteroids, high blood pressure and cholesterol all contribute. So do pain, depression and anxiety, and chronic inflammation.
Reducing the pain that distracts you during the day and keeps you awake at night could be a major step towards a vibrant brain. Some with RA find that biologic agents like TNF inhibitors combat brain fog. Improving sleep commonly helps as well. Biologic agents may improve sleep patterns. Developing a “sleep hygiene” strategy can also make a difference. You might try establishing a calming routine near bedtime. And reducing inflammation often helps as well. So include anti-inflammatory foods like blueberries or green tea.
Even with brain fog, we need to keep a handle on our lives. Recognize how your memory fluctuates during the day. Then you can schedule intense memory tasks at those times when you’re likely to be functioning at your best. Another idea is to establish routines so your daily schedule puts less of a strain on your memory. And organizing apps can remind you of appointments or when it’s time to take your medications.
So Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause Brain Fog?
The studies show that rheumatoid arthritis can cause brain fog. Someday we’ll understand how. For now, research is ongoing, and in the meantime, there are ways to combat it.