Hi, all. I have been meaning to come on and post about this topic for a couple of weeks since I read the article in USA Today on March 2nd. Upon reading it, one of those little cartoon ballons with an exclamation point almost literally appeared above my head, so I thought you all might find it interesting.
To paraphrase the article: You may have heard of the chemicals called cytokines that are released when the immune system goes into attack mode when it perceives a threat. These chemicals tell the brain to slow down, which helps the body heal and fight whatever it is attacking. This affects a person's thought and memory processes and makes their brain perform in a sluggish way. A study done at the University of Pittsburgh seems to show that this happens on a continuous basis to people who have chronic illnesses that keep their immune systems working at elevated levels. This manifests itself as memory lapses and difficulty recollecting information. Can you say "brain fog"! Hel-lo! This isn't all the article says, it also talks about aging and Alzheimer's, heart disease, and stress, and never mentions lupus by name, but lupus has to be the ultimate example of a chronic, systemic immune disease that would keep the brain exposed to these cytokines on a continuous basis (unless this was being suppressed by medications, of course).
Just as an aside, I have read all the posts about "brain fog" and have experienced it myself. There are so many moments now when I, at 37, know what I should be saying or doing, but I cannot say it, cannot do it, because my brain is stuck and won't move to the next step. Sometimes I wonder if a time will come when I won't be able to act in a situation could cause myself or others harm. (I especially think about the child I would like to have.) But I recently had a minor, but very illustrative episode that brought home to me that my brain doesn't work the same as it used to. I was taking a practice test for one of those standardized exams that one takes to get into graduate school. (Note: I have always enjoyed taking these standardized tests, as I like to test my mental skills and keep them sharp.) There was this particular math problem that had me so befuddled that I wasted a great deal of time on it. The weird thing was, after reading the question, I immediately recognized how to answer it, but could not make my brain retrieve the information and take action. I had this sensation of the files in my brain spinning and spinning, but refusing to stop at the designated place. I could not concentrate on the problem at hand, and this was so frustrating, I truly felt near tears! Now I worry that I will not be able to perform well on these kinds of tests anymore (I want to return to graduate school next year and must take this test) since I can't retrieve stuff from my brain quickly enough sometimes. Guess I'll just have to hope I take it on a good day and do my best, but it is a very disconcerting thought that I may no longer be able to adequately represent my skills and knowledge anymore from a career standpoint. Not to mention all the ways this shows up in everyday life.
Lupus is joy!