The mystery of COVID-19 brain fog

a woman doctor stands in front of a screen showing brain scans
Photo credit Getty Images

Recent studies have shown that the more times you’re infected with COVID, the more likely you are to end up with long-term symptoms, which include things like chronic fatigue, permanent loss of taste and smell, or insomnia. One of the most mystifying long COVID symptoms is “brain fog.”

Brain fog isn’t the only neurological condition that can come from COVID. That’s according to research out of Washington University. Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly tells KMOX that all kinds of neurological disorders could come about as a result of COVID.

“We find people have an increased risk of headaches, seizures, inflammation of the brain, in some cases, strokes, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Al-Aly said. “So overall, an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could increase the risk of neurologic manifestations. And it's not only brain fog.”

Strokes, headaches, and seizures are all familiar to doctors, unlike brain fog. So how is brain fog treated? Dr. Al-Aly said it’s a completely different animal.

“There's a lot of research now being done to sort of help us understand why brain fog happens in the first place, and how to treat it,” he said. “At this time, there's really not a single FDA-approved therapeutic or drug for brain fog in the United States.”

It’s also not totally clear to doctors why some people get stuck with long-haul COVID symptoms while others don’t.

“There are several theories out there. The leading theory is the viral resistance in some people — the virus is not completely clear, the body is not able to clear the virus completely and get rid of the virus completely,” he explained. “And as a result, these patients will have either a whole live virus that resists in their bodies, or even fragments of its RNA or proteins that reside and persist in the body and provoke chronic inflammation, leading to subsequent disease.”

Hear more about COVID and brain fog from Dr. Al-Aly:

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images