Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on
September 9, 2022
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on:

Do you feel like you’re living in a fog? Have you been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and are looking for ways to manage the symptoms? If so, you’re not alone.

Millions of people around the world are struggling with autoimmune diseases and brain fog.

In this article, we will explore what autoimmune diseases are, how they aggravate brain fog, and how you can manage your symptoms.

We’ll also provide links to additional resources where you can learn more about autoimmune disorders and brain health.

Let’s get into it.

What exactly is autoimmunity?

When our immune system is functioning properly, it protects us from foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses.

However, sometimes the immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign invaders. This can happen due to a number of different factors, including genetics, stress, and autoimmune diseases.

Autoimmunity occurs when the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body, resulting in musculoskeletal and skin diseases that can lead to a wide range of symptoms, including brain fog.

There are more than 80 autoimmune diseases that have been identified by medical professionals.

Some of the most common autoimmune diseases include:

  • Hashimoto’s disease
  • Graves’ disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Celiac disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Lupus
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis 
  • Sjorgen’s Syndrome

These are just a few examples of autoimmune diseases that can lead to brain fog.

Common Causes of Autoimmunity

There is not one specific cause of autoimmunity. Instead, it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Some research suggests that many autoimmune diseases are more common in women than men. This may be due to hormones, but more research is needed to confirm this theory.

Also, other autoimmune diseases tend to run in families, which suggests that genetics may play a role in their development.

Environmental factors, such as stress, toxins, infections, and lifestyle choices, are also thought to contribute to autoimmune diseases.

For example, some research has found a link between autoimmune diseases and viral infections.

While the exact cause of autoimmunity is unknown, the combination of genetic and environmental factors is thought to play a role in its development.

Common Symptoms of Autoimmunity

Autoimmune diseases can lead to a wide range of symptoms. The symptoms vary depending on the autoimmune disease and the individual.

Some common symptoms of autoimmunity include:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Rashes
  • Skin problems
  • Hair loss
  • Digestive issues
  • Brain fog

These are just a few examples of the symptoms that autoimmune diseases can cause.

Common Autoimmune Diseases that Cause Brain Fog

Some of the most common autoimmune diseases that can lead to brain fog include:

Lupus

Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect any part of the body. Most commonly, the following:

  • joints
  • lungs
  • skin
  • heart
  • kidneys
  • brain
  • blood cells

Lupus is difficult to identify since many of its symptoms mimic those of other diseases. However, many cases of lupus are characterized by a facial rash that looks like butterfly wings on both cheeks.

Common Causes

While the exact cause of lupus is unknown, it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

While there is no guaranteed cure for lupus, people who are prone to developing the autoimmune disease may have it triggered by infections, drugs, or even exposure to sunlight. With treatment, though, patients can learn to manage their symptoms.

Common Symptoms

Lupus can cause a wide range of symptoms. The most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Rashes
  • Skin problems
  • Hair loss
  • Digestive issues
  • Anemia (low iron levels)
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Chest pain when taking deep breaths
  • Swollen glands

Lupus can also lead to brain fog, which can make it difficult to concentrate, remember things, or make decisions.

How to Manage Lupus Brain Fog

There is no specific treatment for lupus brain fog. However, there are a few things that you can do to manage your symptoms:

  • Get enough sleep: Fatigue is a common symptom of lupus, so it’s essential to get enough rest.
  • Exercise: Exercise can help improve fatigue and joint pain.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Eating a nutritious diet can help improve overall health and well-being.
  • Make time for relaxation: Stress can worsen lupus symptoms, so it’s important to make time for relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation.
  • Talk to your doctor: If you’re struggling to manage your symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may be able to recommend medication or other treatments.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that can cause widespread pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, mood swings, memory problems, and brain fog.

Common Causes

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is currently unknown, but it’s speculated that several factors contribute to the development of the condition.

There are several theories surrounding fibromyalgia, but one of the most prominent is that those who suffer from it have developed changes in how their central nervous system processes pain messages sent throughout the body. This change is likely due to an alteration of chemicals within the nervous system.

Information from one part of the body is carried by nerves and cells to other sections through a network of specialized cells in the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves).

Changes in this system’s functioning may explain why fibromyalgia is associated with constant agony and sensitivity to pain.

Common Symptoms

Fibromyalgia can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Widespread pain
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Memory problems
  • Brain fog
  • Mood swings (e.g., depression, anxiety, irritability)

How to Manage Fibromyalgia

There is no specific cure for fibromyalgia, but there are steps that you can take that will help manage the symptoms. These include:

  • Exercise Therapy: Exercise has been shown to be beneficial for people with fibromyalgia. It can help improve pain, fatigue, sleep quality, and overall well-being.
  • Pain medication: Over-the-counter and prescription pain medications can help relieve pain associated with fibromyalgia.
  • Antidepressants: These medications can help improve sleep, pain, and fatigue.
  • Sleep hygiene: Practicing good sleep habits can help improve sleep quality. This includes things like avoiding caffeine before bed, establishing a regular sleep schedule, and creating a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Stress management: Stress can worsen fibromyalgia symptoms, so it’s essential to find ways to manage stress. This might include things like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises. 

If you’re having trouble managing your symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may be able to recommend other treatment options that can assist you.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. The immune system mistakenly views myelin — the protective coating around nerve cells — as a foreign substance and attacks it.

Common Causes

There are several theories about what causes MS, but one of the most prominent is that it’s triggered by an autoimmune reaction. This theory is supported by the fact that MS is more common in people with certain other autoimmune diseases, such as type I diabetes and celiac disease.

Other possible causes of MS include:

  • Genetic factors: MS is more common in people with certain genes, such as the HLA-DRB1*1501 gene.
  • Environmental factors: There’s evidence to suggest that MS may be triggered by certain infections or viral illnesses.
  • Hormonal factors: Some researchers believe that MS is linked to a deficiency in the hormone vitamin D.

Common Symptoms

MS can cause a wide range of symptoms, which may vary in severity from person to person. These include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness or tingling in the limbs
  • Fatigue
  • Bladder or bowel problems
  • Vision problems
  • Dizziness
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive impairment (aka “brain fog”) 

MS can be a very unpredictable disease, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. The severity of symptoms can also fluctuate, meaning that they may come and go or get worse over time.

How to Manage Multiple Sclerosis

There is currently no cure for MS, but there are treatments available that can help manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. These include:

  • Disease-modifying therapies: These therapies can help slow the progression of MS by reducing the number of relapses (aka “flare-ups”) and delaying the onset of disability.
  • Immunosuppressant drugs: These drugs help suppress the immune system cells and prevent them from attacking the myelin.
  • Pain medication: Over-the-counter and prescription pain medications can help relieve pain associated with MS. 
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help strengthen muscles and improve flexibility. It can also help with balance and coordination.
  • Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy can help people with MS learn new ways to perform everyday tasks. This might include things like using adaptive equipment or modifying the home to make it easier to get around.

If you have MS, it’s important to work with your doctor to create a treatment plan that’s right for you.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing MS, so the best way to manage your symptoms is by working with your healthcare team.

Encephalitis

Encephalitis is a severe autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system attacks the brain. This can lead to inflammation of the brain, which can cause a wide range of cognitive impairment symptoms.

Common Causes

There are several possible causes of encephalitis, but one of the most common is an autoimmune reaction. This theory is supported by the fact that encephalitis is more common in people with certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Other possible causes of encephalitis include:

  • Viral infections: Viral infections are the most common cause of encephalitis. The viruses that are most often linked to encephalitis include herpes simplex virus (HSV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and varicella-zoster virus (VZV).
  • Bacterial infections: Bacterial infections can also lead to encephalitis. The most common bacteria that are linked to encephalitis include Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Streptococcus pneumoniae.
  • Parasitic infections: Parasitic infections are another possible cause of encephalitis. The parasites that are most often linked to encephalitis include Toxoplasma gondii and Cryptosporidium parvum. 

Common Symptoms

The symptoms of encephalitis can differ significantly in both type and intensity from individual to individual. Common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Memory loss
  • Personality changes
  • Seizures
  • Coma (in severe cases).

How to Manage Encephalitis

Encephalitis is a serious autoimmune disease, and it requires prompt medical treatment. The goal of treatment is to reduce brain inflammation and relieve symptoms. Treatment options include:

  • Steroids: Steroids are the most common type of medication used to treat encephalitis. They work by reducing inflammation. 
  • Antiviral drugs: Antiviral drugs are often used to treat encephalitis caused by a viral infection. These drugs can help reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness.
  • Immunoglobulin therapy: Immunoglobulin therapy is a type of treatment that involves infusing immunoglobulins (antibodies) into the bloodstream. Immunoglobulins can help reduce brain inflammation and improve symptoms.
  • Plasmapheresis: Plasmapheresis is a type of treatment that involves removing autoimmune antibodies from the blood. This can help to alleviate brain inflammation and improve symptoms.

If you think you might have encephalitis, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the best possible outcome.

These are just some of the most common autoimmune diseases that cause brain fog.

However, you may also want to look out for the following autoimmune conditions that are also known to have brain fog as one of the significant symptoms:

  • Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS): a condition that speeds up your heart rate when you go from a sitting or lying position to standing upright.
  • Sjorgen’s Syndrome: An immune system disorder that leaves patients with dry eyes and mouth.
  • Transverse Myelitis: an inflammation of the spinal cord that often damages the protective myelin surrounding nerve cells.
  • Autoimmune Hepatitis: a disease in which the immune system attacks and damages your liver cells.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: a chronic disorder that causes inflammation in many joints, which can include the hands and feet.
  • Crohn’s Disease: also called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It’s characterized by swelling of the tissues in your digestive tract.
  • Psoriasis: a condition characterized by an excessive build-up of skin cells, which results in scales and itchy, dry patches.
  • Celiac Disease: an immune response that celiac patients experience when they consume gluten, a protein found in rye, barley, and wheat.

If you think you might have any of these autoimmune diseases, it’s essential to see a doctor. Many of these conditions can be managed with the help of medication and lifestyle changes.

In Conclusion

Autoimmune diseases are a complex group of conditions that can be difficult to diagnose.

However, if you think you might have an autoimmune disease, it’s important to see a doctor immediately. Early detection and treatment are critical for getting the most effective result.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing most autoimmune diseases. However, with the help of a doctor, you can develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.

And don’t forget that lifestyle changes, such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and reducing your stress levels, can also help to manage autoimmune diseases and improve your overall health.

Do you want to learn more about how to clear brain fog effectively and improve your overall brain health? Check out these helpful resources we compiled on our blog.

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