Lupus Fog: How to Cope
For some people, the most difficult part of living with lupus isn't the fatigue, pain, or other physical symptoms associated with this chronic autoimmune disorder. The most difficult part is lupus fog and the way it skews their ability to think, focus, concentrate, work, study, and sometimes remember even basic information. What causes lupus fog and how can you cope with it?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder that's more common in women than men and damages a patient's skin, joints, organs and other parts of her body. There is no cure for Lupus, though there are treatments that make it easier to live with. The Lupus Foundation of America says the most common symptoms of are:
- Extreme fatigue
- Painful or swollen joints
- Swelling in feet, legs, hands, and/or around eyes
- Pain in chest on deep breathing
- Butterfly-shaped rash across cheeks and nose
- Sun or light-sensitivity
- Hair loss
- Abnormal blood clotting
- Fingers turning white and/or blue when cold
- Mouth or nose ulcers
- Memory loss or "lupus fog"
The phrase "lupus fog" is officially called "cognitive dysfunction" or "cognitive impairment." It refers to difficulty completing once-familiar tasks, short-term memory loss and lack of ability to focus or concentrate. Some patients only experience mild, occasional bouts of lupus fog while others experience it full force all the time. Some may occasionally forget names, dates or appointments and others may have profound impairment and difficulty communicating or expressing herself.
No one knows what causes lupus or lupus fog, but doctors suspect that in some cases, lupus damages brain cells like it does when it attacks other organs. Lupus fog might also be the result of chronic fatigue, stress, depression, pain or other exhausting and sometimes debilitating symptoms of the disease or it might be caused by side effects to medications taken to control the disease. Patients who also suffer with fibromyalgia seem to be affected by lupus fog more often than others.
While scientists search for answers about the causes and cure for Lupus, other experts are focusing on coping mechanisms to help patients with Lupus fog function. Cognitive therapists, speech pathologists and occupational therapists work with Lupus patients to develop strategies and techniques to improve their memories, decrease distractions and eliminate stress. The Lupus Foundation says their techniques might include puzzles, games, biofeedback, and organizational tools like calendars. They offer these tips to help patients cope with Lupus Fog.
- Pay attention when receiving new information. Repeat it or write it down and verify details.
- Focus on one task at a time.
- Take care of your body: exercise, eat well and get enough sleep.
- Learn and practice memory techniques such as associating names with images or repeating the name several times in conversation.
- Stay organized. Use a yearlong calendar notebook so all appointments, plans, contact information and reminders are in one places.
In addition to these tips, take advantage of new technological advances like cell phone and computer applications that keep people on-task. Ask family members and coworkers to provide gentle nudges when you're feeling "foggy." Join a support group for people with Lupus and find out what tips work for others. Most importantly, see your physician regularly and whenever new symptoms arise. While there is currently no cure for Lupus, new solutions for living well despite this disease are developing all the time.
Lupus Foundation of America
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