Your brain is the most complex organ in your body. It performs a long list of functions critical for life.
This is possible because of electrical impulses that travel through nerve cells called neurons. Each neuron has a tail-like axon that carries those impulses to the next cell. Axons have a protective covering called myelin, which speeds up the signal transmission.
If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), your immune system mistakenly targets the myelin in your brain and spinal cord. This interferes with the transmission of nerve impulses and causes MS symptoms.
MS and the brain
Your brain is about 20 percent myelin. When MS interferes with the function of this myelin, it can disrupt the neuronal activity in your brain. As a result, more than 50 percent of people with MS experience some cognitive changes.
Sometimes cognitive changes are the first sign that you have MS, although these types of changes are more likely to occur later on, as the condition progresses. These changes can happen with any type of MS but are more common in progressive MS.
Some of these changes can affect:
- concentration and attention
- information processing
- prioritizing and planning
- verbal fluency
- visual spatial ability
According to one study, roughly 40 percent of those with MS will have only mild symptoms, but 5 to 10 percent will have moderate to severe symptoms. Those with progressive MS tend to experience more severe cognitive changes than those with relapsing-remitting MS.
During an MS flare, inflammation can trigger new cognitive challenges, or intensify the ones you already have. Sometimes these flare-related changes are permanent, but they can also resolve once the flare has passed and the inflammation has subsided.
Brain fog is a term used to describe how your brain doesn’t seem to work as well as it once did. It’s also sometimes referred to as “cog fog,” the shortened version of cognition fog.
When you experience brain fog, you might forget words, lose your keys, or miss an appointment. Your job performance or schoolwork may be affected, or you might be challenged by everyday tasks, like decision making.
Brain fog can be your first MS symptom, or it can appear after you have a diagnosis. Brain fog can interrupt your daily routine by causing you to become absentminded. Strategies to manage brain fog include:
- writing to-do lists
- using voice-to-text technology to keep notes
- using timers and alarms
- using a family calendar
- saving difficult tasks for when you’re most alert
- reducing background noise when you need to concentrate
- designating a specific area in the home for important items, like mail and keys
- avoiding multitasking
- taking frequent breaks to recharge
If you have an MS diagnosis and begin to notice cognitive changes, it’s important to talk with your doctor to assess the situation. Early screening and ongoing monitoring can help those with MS manage their symptoms. To continue to read this article in its entirety click the link for more: MS and Brain Fog