Lupus & Brain Fog

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: January 2020

Brain fog, or lupus fog, is one of the most common symptoms of lupus with up to 60 percent of people reporting this symptom.1 Brain fog includes trouble thinking or concentrating, being forgetful, having trouble recalling facts or words, trouble multitasking, trouble navigating, or difficulty solving problems and making plans. The medical term for lupus fog is cognitive dysfunction.

What causes brain fog in lupus?

Brain fog may be caused by lupus attacking the brain and nerves, but it may be made worse by lack of sleep, lack of exercise, pain, and intense fatigue. Like all lupus symptoms, it may be mild in some people and more pronounced in others. Lupus fog often comes and goes, usually is not severe, rarely progressing into dementia.2

How is lupus fog diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose brain or lupus fog with a physical exam and neuropsychological tests. In one test, you look at a chart of words and name the color of the words. In another test, your doctor will ask you a series of questions related to daily activities.

Brain fog may also be caused by fatigue, lack of sleep, the side effects of a drug, or cardiovascular problems, so your doctor will need to rule these out as factors.

How is lupus fog treated?

For mild cases of brain fog, your doctor will probably suggest coping techniques and self-care. You may be prescribed a medicine to help you sleep if you have problems with getting to sleep and staying asleep. If fatigue or pain is contributing to your brain fog, your doctor may try to adjust your lupus medications so that you can concentrate better.3,4

Tips for dealing with brain fog

For the person experiencing it, brain fog can be one of the most frustrating and overwhelming symptoms of lupus. It can make it harder to study for school, work, or accomplish chores around the house. Some tips for helping yourself cope with brain fog include:

Useful tools

Keep print calendars with color-coding in a central location to remind yourself and other members of your household about activities. If you prefer to go digital, use online calendars and apps to track activities and even schedule automatic reminders.


Do one thing at a time and avoid trying to multitask. Reduce the number of activities you try to accomplish and just focus on the essentials.


Get the blood flowing so that extra oxygen is pumping through your system.

Read or play games

Keeping your mind stimulated and active can encourage your mind to stay as lively as possible.

Prioritize sleep

Getting enough sleep, and good quality sleep, helps healthy brains and lupus brains operate at their best.

Create visual clues

Try to trigger your memory by leaving out objects. For instance, leave the dry cleaning bag on the kitchen table to remind yourself to go to the dry cleaners.

Build-in extra time

If a task once took you an hour to complete, accommodate your fuzzy brain by giving yourself 2 to three 3 for the same task.

Reduce stress

Set aside some time each day to clear your mind by meditating, listening to music, or going for a walk. This gives your mind a chance to rest and relax, which can make it more likely you can think more clearly when you return to your tasks.

Give yourself a break

When you forget something or can’t concentrate the way you would like, stay calm and give yourself a break. Focus on what you can do rather than what you cannot. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. Going with the flow may help jog your memory.3,4

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