How to deal wih intense brain fog at work?

I have lupus/sjogrens overlap syndrome and struggle with terrible episodes of brain fog.

I NEED my brain to function in my career (which I worked so hard for ) and some days get where I am SO foggy I can't think straight. Everything is clouded over. I can't multitask, can barely understand what I read, get memory lapses, make errors, and get easily confused. My vision goes black for a second or two a times and I get so tired I feel I've been drugged and want nothing more than to sleep. It sometimes almost feels like my brain turns off for a second.

I have a fast-paced demanding job with multiple coworkers relying on me and requesting multiple things from me at the same time (I normally can handle this). On these bad days I get so frustrated with my fogginess that I often get teary eyed and end up crying in the bathroom and then coming back when I get a grip. Prednisone has always helped this but my rheumatologist wants me off prednsione because 1.) it's not good for me 2.) they don't know why it's helping the foggy symptoms.

How to deal with this? Do I tell my coworkers my brain isn't working today so be easy on me today? I mean really? I can't call in every time I get this or I'd tick everyone off and I can't work like this. I don't want disability. Not an option for me.

Any help appreciated!

Can you ask the rheumy why they want you off prednisone? Have they suggested other medications? Plaquenil helps with fatigue and brain fog. They are still there but more tolerable

I've been on it for almost a year and my rheumatologist referred me to an endocrinologist to help me taper. They're concerned of long term side effects of prednisone. I contacted my endocrinologist and told him I can't function at work like this and told me to just grin and bear the symptoms at work and continue the taper. This is horrible. Should I let people at work what I'm going through on these days?

I have the same issue!!! I don't take prednisone all I take is Plaquenil (for the Lupus/Sjogrens). I don't have any answers or help with how to deal with it, but wanted to reply just as support and to say if you find anything that helps you, please pass it along!! I go to a Neurologist in a couple weeks. I know exactly what you mean by its like your brain turns off.

Yes, Lilac, you must communicate with co-workers, describing the symptoms and how they impact your work performance as well as their performance. Have you discussed the problem with your boss? They must know as well. They probably would have sympathy and understanding of your plight, and perhaps could make some adjustments in the work place that ease some of your responsibility and stress without compromising positive work performance. If the condition worsens and your performance suffers even more dramatically, it's time to consider disability. I admire and respect your hesitance to consider this direction, but it might eventually be necessary, and there is no shame in doing so if you qualify and need to do so.

I have had some of the fogginess and lightheadedness you speak of, and it scares me when it suddenly comes on. This is nothing to fool with. My doctors tend to dance around the question when I ask what could be causing it, but I understand their confusion when I consider how complex and varied my condition is with lupus, interstitial lung disease, lymphoma marginal B cell lung cancer (now cured) and occasional kidney issues. Have you been told by doctors what causes these symptoms you experience?

Thomas Franklin

Lilac83 said:

I've been on it for almost a year and my rheumatologist referred me to an endocrinologist to help me taper. They're concerned of long term side effects of prednisone. I contacted my endocrinologist and told him I can't function at work like this and told me to just grin and bear the symptoms at work and continue the taper. This is horrible. Should I let people at work what I'm going through on these days?

Lilac…I know, its extremely difficult. I had to give up flying and other things because of it. But your idea about just telling people that the old brain isnt working today is probably the best thing. Bad brain fog is usually a sign for me…that im in a flare then prednisone taper works well, as you know…or I have eaten something that I shouldnt have and I hate having to always be aware of what I put in my mouth. Next time one of your co workers have cold or flu, tell them to remember that feeling of brain fog and thats what you deal with always! :slight_smile:

I know how difficult this is to manage. I had to give in and realize that my brain just wasn’t reliable enough to do the job I’ve been doing for 30+ years. The job was high stress and requires constant multi-tasking. No way I could admit to being impaired in that work environment. I’ve since retired and gone on disability - quite an adjustment for me but its working out well as I’m getting to spend more time with my daughter and granddaughter.

Since I see what a challenge it is now just for me to prepare a family meal, I know I did the best thing for me.

I think the brain fog is just typical of Lupus, not the Meds. Prednisone helps my pain and swelling, but not the fog. Plaquenil just seems to keep everything from getting worse.

Good luck! I hope it works out for you!

Hi!, the brain fog only last for a couple of mins., I think your doctor should order some tests to make sure that your not experiencing a mild stroke! Or a blood clot in your brain. Dealing with work got hard for me to do , which caused me to stop working and get on disability. Which I knew was going to happen I can’t hold things in my hand for a long time , can’t stand for long periods, or handle noise (my nerves just go crazy). Yes! not being able to work is a problem , and being at work was a problem so my doctor just told me, “you won’t be able to work without hurting myself /herself or others , and that is what he said at the Social Security appeals hearing to the judge”. So here I am at home looking at the walls , sleeping and eating and watching T.V. all day long . Am tired of that ! , but can’t do nothing else at all. Well like the saying goes , "if you can’t beat it/them , join it ! My prayers will go out for you…Beverly L.

Braln fog seems to be common in several related illnesses too, like fibro and sjogrens. I have foggy days for a few days, then it goes away. I haven’t ever associated it with anything except maybe getting anxious.

Ginkgo boloba and/or ginseng has helped alleviate about 90% of my brain fog. Ask your Dr to check your thyroid. I felt as dumb as a rock when my thyroid was low. I could barely finish a sentence, because I'd forget what I just said and what the point was.I am self conscious of the mistakes I make or losing my train of thought. I often say "just had a brain cramp, trying again" or "My train of thought just derailed. Where was I? Something to make light of the situation.

Hi Lilac,

I know how you feel. I get brain fog and i am on Prednisone and cellcept (and a list of other meds). I write everything down and use a digital calander to keep track of everything. I try to block time to do one time at a time when possible. I would caution about telling others at work. I think some people just don't understand, on the other hand some coworkers have been understanding. I wish i had a solution for both of us. Take care. Meg

I know where you’re coming from. I work at starbucks and it is very routine, FAST, and demanding. Which in any case is horrible for my lupus fog. I can’t count how many times I’ve forgotten how to make an everyday drink, do a task, or even give a customer their money back. My dream is to become a doctor but I’m nervous to go to school with such strong brain fog.

The way that I’ve coped with this is by telling my coworkers that I am not having a good day because of the Lupus fog, intense pain, etc. Most have come to an understanding and help me lift a little weight. It was hard for me to open up because I am very prideful but when I swallowed my pride and trusted my coworkers life at work became so much easier. Take the help when you can.

Thank you all very much for your support and helpful tips. Atleast I know I am not alone in this.

Stay strong and know you are not alone .

For about 3 years I had the exact same issue but it was everyday. This was at the height of my I initial flare that lasted - honestly - for 2-3 years. My job too was very demanding. I had many, many tearful days. My prayers for relief were constant. God did bless me with - at the time - a boss that understood as well as the person I shared an office with. I kept it from everyone else. I was afraid that if everyone knew, there would start being complaints to my boss that would eventually comprise my job. Now, my symptoms are tremendously better. I still have those days of muck in my brain but it is not everyday anymore. The only thing I can attribute my improvement to, sadly - is because I lost my husband suddenly and ended up off work for 3 months - just unable to get myself together. Had to quit my job and I slept and slept and slept. While is was such a tradgey, the sleep I needed I was finally getting. While the death was sudden, his health was not great so I constantly worried. Once he was gone the result I had In the sleep I got certainly took me by surprise.

While this does not offer any name of a med that could help, hopefully you will see some slow improvement. I think everyone has to decide who they share with at work and what their individual circumstances are. Good luck!

Whenever I read others stories I’m always amazed how similar they sound to my own. I was working as a Vet Assistant when I first started to feel really sick. I can completely relate to how you feel on bad days when you have a fast-paced job. Obviously, when you are working with animals it’s very hectic and unpredictable and similar to you I couldn’t tell a dog that did not want to be examined to please take it easy on me. I would collapse in the bathroom several times a day. It got to the point where I couldn’t mentally or physically perform the way I needed to and I had to leave for my own well-being. I didn’t want anyone else to be hurt or impacted because I couldn’t keep up either. I don’t know exactly what type of work you do but I think it’s really important to communicate your needs with others. You don’t have to say your “brain isn’t working” which I understand all too well but maybe you could say this is a bad day for me with lupus. I know it's hard but I think if we're honest with ourselves and others then it helps a lot.

Lilac, I get this fog from fibro (which seems like the evil step-sister to many autoimmune diseases) and the only thing that helps is sleep. Maybe you are needing more sleep at night. The other thing is to take short rests when it's particularly bad. Maybe a few minutes away from your desk where you can get away from the stress.

Also, have you been tested for anemia or other vitamin deficiencies? If not, you might wish to, as they can also make a bad situation worse. And they seem to go hand in hand with autoimmune illnesses.

It's hard, I know. I wish there was an easy answer but there doesn't seem to be. I think I would tell my boss about what's going on.

My best to you. I hope you find a way to make your life a bit easier on this end.

The only thing I can think of is to look into vitamins and make sure you’re taking care of yourself. I’m sorry, that is so difficult.

I am sorry it has been so bad, fogginess can certainly be a challenge. I also work in a demanding work environment. Some things I do to help myself are: I wear headphones when I can and play soothing quiet music, for some reason it helps keep me calm / less stress and also helps me focus. I drink lots of water to stay well hydrated, I believe it helps with keeping my head clearer as well. I make sure to eat a protein snack (like nuts or granola bar) a couple of times a day. I try to keep the stress as low as I can as that certainly can bring on the fogginess for me. Whenever I can feel the fog coming on (it happened today) I try to recognize it for what it is and take a few deep breaths. I then work hard to just focus on one task at hand and stay focused on it (instead of a few as usual). That often helps me stay grounded. And when I do lose my train of thought or can't remember something, I use humor with co-workers. I just comment something like "oh, you know I am having a "moment" or "my train of thought has runaway" or something like that. One thing I have noticed is that even though I may be a little self-conscious about it, I have realized that a LOT of "healthy" people experience loss of thoughts ('fog") as well. Once I realized that it stopped bothering me so much when it happened to me.