Multiple Sclerosis With Brain Fog

Cog Fog probably started sneaking up on you years before your MS diagnosis. Multiple Sclerosis alone is challenging, but Multiple Sclerosis with Brain Fog involves a totally different set of problems.

“Brain Fog” is a term generally used to describe the confusion, disorientation, general grogginess, and other issues resulting from cognitive dysfunction which commonly occurs with MS.

What can Cog Fog affect?

  • ability to use and understand language
  • concentration
  • thinking
  • reasoning
  • problem solving
  • recognition of people and places
  • ability to learn and remember new things
  • ability to plan and execute plans
  • ability to judge distances
  • multitasking
  • prioritizing


Brain Fog does NOT only coincide with MS. It can be caused by a number of diseases, imbalances, injuries, environmental factors, medications, and age. When caused by MS, it is believed to result from the disruption of neural pathways caused by demyelination. A possibly unexpected result of this condition is the depression that can set in with the disappointment and discouragement as ability and independence decline.

In Multiple Sclerosis, fatigue is the primary cause of worsened cognitive dysfunction.

When I was a teenager, I remember putting salt and pepper in my soup and realizing that it tasted wrong. So wrong. Unbearably sweet. Slowly I realized that I had opened several packets of sweetener and poured them into my vegetable beef soup instead of shaking salt in. This is definitely the first time I can identify having experienced something quite wrong with my memory and concentration. Fast forward 16 years to my diagnosis and I can start to see other incidents. I can see where my ability to learn swiftly had declined. I recognize that my cognitive ability declines sharply when I’m stressed or exposed to heat.

Before starting Gilenya I had starting having issues with getting lost on familiar roads. There was a feeling that I knew where I was, but I couldn’t actually recognize my surroundings or make sense of them in context. My 1.7 mile commute between work and home involved more muscle memory of where to turn than real memory of knowing every inch of the short route. In a worst case scenario, I knew I could always pull out the GPS and push the HOME button for a voice to guide me to a place I belonged. I was hesitant to share this symptom with anyone. When I did share this, it was usually met with an irritable and impatient response: “HOW can you not remember how to get to X? You just go past landmark X and turn RIGHT!” Why did I expect anyone to understand a symptom like this?

This symptom seemed to improve but has recently begun to return. Worse than that, my memory has become significantly impaired at times. What’s my password? Where are my keys? Which key opens this door? Where is my iPhone? Where is the remote? Should I be at work today? I have apparently tried to repeat conversations with my husband ad nauseum. That’s a great way to drive someone crazy and certain to make me second guess everything I want to say.

Trying to piece it together, I realize that my Cog Fog started getting worse as I began a new prescription required for my recent surgery. With my neurologist’s blessing I have ceased the medication and am waiting to see if I return to my version of normal, even if that isn’t as good as a healthy normal. On Tuesday I begin taking college courses in addition to my normal work schedule, and I worry that I might not have what it takes anymore to participate in academia.

How can I treat Brain Fog?

  • a healthy diet full of nutrients
  • regular exercise
  • research your medications
  • get enough rest
  • play brain teaser games
  • try to identify a trigger that precedes exacerbated cognitive dysfunction
  • talk to your doctor about possible medical treatments

Some folks swear by meditation. Others swear by fish oil or other supplements to help treat this symptom. I have seen elaborate recipes involving vinegar and molasses that individuals swear clear up their thoughts. Don’t place your bets on anything with no scientific evidence, but if you find something that works for you – do it.  Life is short – don’t miss any of it.

Coping with Cog Fog

  • make lists
  • leave notes for yourself
  • take notes of what others say
  • develop routines designed to prevent forgetting important things
  • develop a plan in case of emergency so that you are prepared
  • explain the condition to others so that they understand your actions


How do you deal with Brain Fog?

9 thoughts on “Multiple Sclerosis With Brain Fog

  1. This is great information. I have days where I would swear I had dementia. I have to remind myself just how bad “The Fog” can be. Thanks for the write-up. I hope you’re doing well.

    • I’m glad the article could be of service. Cog Fog can be so frightening sometimes, but we do what we can. There are some online services to help cognition now that I hope to review soon. Great to hear from you – take care!

  2. hi every one i am new so please forgive me if this is not where i can ask a question i have not been diagnosed yet but have a lot of the symptoms of m.s i was wondering if anyone could explain my cat scan results ……prominent vessel coursing through the left frontal lobe and running adjacent to the frontal horn of the left lateral ventricle….IMPRESSION vascular anomaly within the left frontal lobe favored to represent a venous angioma

  3. Hello to all , I’m going through an exacerbation right now, my mind is n a fog and my body aches really bad like I have the flu, but I don’t, any body going through this, if so what are you doing for the uncomfortable feeling lack of sleep can’t lay my head down been up 2 nights canot sleep I hurt very badly

    • Hi Bernay – I have to be honest: sleep issues can be a big problem for me. When all else fails and discomfort from pain keeps me up, I turn to medication to dose off. I’ve found that if I *don’t* sleep, then the discomfort will invariably be worse the next night. It becomes a vicious cycle. Your comment made me realize that I’ve never covered the topic here. I haven’t really posted anything new since I returned to school, but as I finish up my last classes I may make sleep my next topic. I am sorry to hear that you’re experiencing an exacerbation right now, and I hope you have some rest soon!

  4. Pingback: Living With Multiple Sclerosis – Four Years | Diagnosis MS

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