(NEXSTAR) – One of the most common symptoms of long COVID may be going ignored by people who have it, worries Dr. Monique White-Dominguez, a physician with Sameday Health in Los Angeles. She fears brain fog is being routinely underdiagnosed because people aren’t aware of the signs.
“The defining feature that a lot of patients have been mentioning is the inability to fully concentrate,” said White-Dominguez.
In addition to a loss of focus, another important thing to pay attention to is your memory, the physician said. “The short-term memory seems to be affected most, the ability to recall what I just did 35 minutes ago.”
Brain fog might look and feel different depending on the person, but White-Dominguez suggests trusting your gut and noticing if the mental “sharpness” you used to have before COVID is diminished.
“It could be someone who was really healthy, a successful executive in their late 20s, who thinks, ‘Oh shoot, I forgot that meeting. I even had eight different reminders on my phone, and I still couldn’t remember that.'”
If you’ve recovered from COVID and any of this sounds familiar, White-Dominguez suggests contacting your primary care doctor to talk through your symptoms, potentially do some tests, and look at treatment options. Brain fog and other long-haul symptoms are a possible result of both mild and severe COVID cases.
Treatment will vary from patient to patient, she says, and more research is needed on how to target the neural symptoms specifically. For now, much of the treatment focuses on improving overall health and wellbeing.
Dr. Andrew E. Budson, a neurology lecturer at Harvard Medical School, recommends activities that help with memory and brain health generally, like frequent exercise, a healthy Mediterranean-style diet and lots of sleep.
Much more research is needed to identify and treat brain fog, White-Dominguez said, but the first step is identifying it. She’s worried with the recent surge in COVID cases, many people may have lingering effects now that they’re ignoring.
“Advocate for yourself, know if you’re not feeling right, [and recognize when] this isn’t a headache or a migraine. This isn’t my anxiety or my depression. I don’t feel right, I’m not sharp. I cant remember what I did 30 minutes ago and that’s not normal,” she said.