“Brain fog” is a term used to describe an overall feeling of mental fogginess. This includes forgetfulness, concentration problems, and confusion. It’s a state of generally disorganized thinking.
Studies show that about half of those with hepatitis C experience neuropsychiatric symptoms like brain fog. Related symptoms include weakness, irritability, and fatigue. While these complaints may seem minor, they can make it hard to perform daily tasks.
Why does hepatitis C cause brain fog?
Hepatitis C is a virus that affects the liver. The liver is responsible for removing harmful substances from your blood, among other duties. When the liver doesn’t function properly, it can affect the entire body, including the brain.
Symptoms of brain fog are more likely to occur in people with advanced hepatitis C or in those who have developed cirrhosis of the liver. Other symptoms of hepatitis C can contribute to that foggy feeling. So can treatment, which may include interferon/ribavirin combination therapy.
Fatigue is a common symptom of hepatitis C. Interferon therapy causes insomnia in many people. Lack of sleep is a contributing factor in headaches, moodiness, and depression. Another medication, ribavirin, can create sleep disturbances and is known to cause fatigue. All these issues can contribute to brain fog.
Having hepatitis C in itself may cause a certain level of anxiety. Interferon therapy can also cause you to feel edgy and anxious.
Anger, irritability, moodiness
People on interferon therapy tend to anger more easily than they normally would. Ribavirin can cause irritability and general moodiness.
Sadness or depression
Sadness may be a result of having hepatitis C, and it’s a common side effect of interferon and ribavirin. It will usually subside within weeks after treatment ends. Talk to your doctor if you’re depressed. Your medication dosages may need to be adjusted, and antidepressants may need to be added to your treatment plan.
Memory, concentration, and confusion
Trouble remembering things and maintaining concentration are side effects of ribavirin. These effects may also lead to general confusion.
Other symptoms of hepatitis C brain fog
Hepatitis C can also cause muscle aches, stomachaches, fever, and loss of appetite. All of these physical symptoms can contribute to the brain fog problem.
Hepatic encephalopathy is more than just brain fog. It’s a condition in which brain function is harmed because the liver is unable to remove toxins from the blood. This allows harmful chemicals to build up in the bloodstream. It generally occurs in people who have advanced hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, or some other chronic liver disease.
Symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy include worsening brain fog, musty or sweet breath, and trouble with small hand movements. More severe signs include hand or arm shaking, major personality changes, and slurred speech. People can become sluggish, unconscious, or slip into a coma. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate hospitalization.
Dealing with brain fog
Side effects of medications may improve after your body adjusts. If not, dosage adjustments, changes in medications, and additional therapies may help ease brain fog.
Complementary therapies like meditation, deep-breathing exercises, and yoga may help ease some symptoms and side effects. Making changes to your sleep patterns, diet, and exercise may help improve your overall health and sense of well-being.
If you’re experiencing brain fog, have a conversation with your doctor.