Living in a Fog: Managing MS Fatigue and Cog Fog
For the past two weeks, we've been talking about some of the physical symptoms of MS. Pain was our symptom spotlight for Week #1 of MS Awareness Month, and then for Week #2, we focused on mobility and balance issues. This week, we're going deeper beneath the surface to focus on those symptoms that most people without MS neither see nor understand – cognitive dysfunction and fatigue.
Brain health and MS
In addition to MS Awareness Month, this week is also Brain Awareness Week which is intended to promote the public and personal benefits of brain research. And what with all that's going on during these stressful and uncertain times, it feels like no better time to discuss the relationship between brain health and MS.
Cognitive dysfunction is not only frustrating, it's also an incredibly frightening experience. Many in our community have shared stories about how this symptom has impacted their life. From little things like forgetting common words or finding the jug of milk in the pantry, to scarier moments like getting lost on the way to work at a job they've worked at for decades. As cognitive symptoms progress, they can have a huge impact on one's work – it's actually one of the primary reasons many have to leave their job. Read more about the scary experience of cognitive dysfunction and its impact on daily life.
Fatigue only serves to worsen cognitive symptoms. One of the most common and often reported as the most debilitating of all MS symptoms, fatigue is a hot topic for the MS community. This is largely due to the fact that it's so misunderstood. It's easy for others to try and relate to the experience of fatigue because everyone knows what it's like to feel tired, drained, or burnt out. But MS fatigue is a whole different ball game of exhaustion. We thought we'd use the words of our own community members to help describe it:
- My fatigue is so bad some days I don’t think I can lift my hand over my head, but I have to.
- I throw up almost daily because my body is so tired and this is the way that it deals with it.
- I don’t have a long commute home - a 15-minute drive - but the urge to pull over to the side of the road and close my eyes for a brief time hits me often.
- It's like I have small sandbags all over my body, and I am trying to move with them on.
- I feel like it leaves me in a type of limbo, an in-between place where I’m not dead but I also don’t really feel alive either.
Managing cog fog and fatigue
For many, fatigue and cog fog go hand in hand and significantly interfere with daily life, making simple tasks like taking a shower or getting dressed extremely challenging. These challenges can have a ripple effect on all aspects of one's life, impacting one's career, social life, intimate relationships, and self-confidence.
Some strategies people have used to help manage cog fog and fatigue include regular exercise, good sleep hygiene, therapy, and exercising the brain by reading, doing crosswords or puzzles, or playing video games. Read more about managing fatigue, and feel free to share any other suggestions or experiences in the comments below.
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