Healthy Living

Understanding Brain Fog in Lupus Patients

Understanding Brain Fog in Lupus Patients

Lupus can be a severe autoimmune disease that can affect virtually any or every part of the body. The disease usually occurs as a result of the attack of the immune system on one’s own organs and tissues, and its symptoms and manifestations usually spawn up anywhere, which can include the joints, heart, lungs, kidney or blood. Even the brain, another vital organ and the nervous system aren’t spared from the adverse effects of lupus, as the disease can manifest in its neuropsychiatric form termed NPSLE, central nervous system lupus (CNS lupus) or neurocognitive dysfunction.

The nervous system in its entirety is divided into 3 essential parts, any of which could be plagued by lupus:

  • The central nervous system: This is the part of the nervous system consisting of the brain and the nervous system.
  • The peripheral nervous system: This is a network of nerves that serve as connectors between the brain, spinal cord and the rest of the body. The PNS is responsible for transmitting signals needed for movement and sensation to the skin and muscles
  • The autonomic nervous system: This essentially controls involuntary functions and allows communication between the spinal and peripheral nerves, the internal organs and the brain. The ANS controls processes such as heart rate, breathing, pupil dilation, blood flow and blinking.

Generally, the symptoms of lupus is often similar to the everyday health challenges, and are signs that can manifest in other diseases, which also makes it quite challenging for healthcare specialists to identify these symptoms as lupus-based. There is however one most apparent symptom that all but confirms the presence of the lupus condition: the appearance of the butterfly wing rash on either half of the victim’s cheek.

People who are living with the autoimmune disorder tend to experience many complications when their central nervous system has been compromised. These symptoms may linger but are usually characterized by flares and recessions, meaning that they will appear from time to time and subdue in due time. As a result of the ambiguity in the symptoms of the disease, lupus neurologists rely on a number of diagnostic tools to help determine if lupus is the culprit of a patient's cognitive symptoms. Some of these applications include:

  • Electroencephalograms (to capture the electrical pattern of brain activity)
  • X-rays
  • Spinal tap (to examine fluid in the spinal column)
  • Brain scans (magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT)

As earlier noted, the brain, like almost every other part of the body, can be affected by the lupus autoimmune disease. A lupus attack on the brain and central nervous system will see a number of reactions to follow, and once the brain is inflamed or affected in any significant way, there are only a handful of ways it can react. Popular symptoms for the brain include depression, speech disturbances, headaches, seizures, stokes, cognitive impairment and so on, and these symptoms will most likely be seen at a certain stage in different patients’ lupus condition, albeit not manifesting all at once.