Steroid Brain Fog: What is your experience?

  • When was the last time your joints felt all loosy-goosy?  If you’ve got rheumatoid arthritis, that’s probably not something which is in your near-term memory bank. 

    When was the last time your mind felt all loosy-goosy?  For me that is right about now as I’ve got steroid-mush brain.

    Rheumatoid arthritis causes stiffness, swelling, and discomfort.  It can also cause brain fog all on its own.  But this is different.

    Due to a recent relapse of my MS, I was given very high doses of steroids by intravenous (IV) infusion, pumping the equivalency of 1000mg of prednisone each day for 4 days.  Yes, a full gram of steroids straight into the vascular system.  Yikes.

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    If this sounds drastic, it is really.  But it certainly shuts down the inflammatory process in the body.  Not only does it stop my immune system from attacking the lining of my nerves, it also brings down the inflammation caused by my RA.

    The result?  I currently do not have a sore joint in my body.  It is very nice.  My joints are flexible and loose.  Whoohoo!  I keep wiggling my toes and swinging my knees just to prove it.

    So this sounds wonderful, you say.  There’s got to be a catch.  Well, there is.

    Steroids are nasty.  They cause all sorts of negative side-effects and I’ve experienced many of them. 

    My body has retained an enormous amount of fluids so I’m very uncomfortable.  The tissue in my hands/fingers have been so swollen that it almost looks like my RA is flaring while it is not.  My ankles have been so swollen that movement is limited.  I’m miserable.

    Steroids will also mess with your emotions.  You can’t control it.  For me, I get irritable at first and would prefer if absolutely NOBODY would talk to me.  Do not ask me questions.  Do not ask if I’m feeling okay or better.  Just don’t.  Then comes the crying for no good reason.  That was Thanksgiving morning, me in tears.

    Next comes the severe brain fog.  This is very different than brain fog caused by the disease.  It is one which requires that you better not make any major decisions until you KNOW that you are thinking clearly.  It is the type of fog which limits what you should do, or not do, such as DO NOT DRIVE the car so as to not danger yourself and others.  I haven’t left the house in over a week.

    For me, the steroid fog also means that I can’t seem to put together a coherent thought.  I’ve wanted to write something for days, but kept coming up blank.  It’s not just a lack of motivation, it’s a lack of communication skills.  Very frustrating for someone who is an intellectual who is usually able to think of SOMETHING to say. 

    So while my body and mind are both loosy-goosy, I wonder if you could help me out.  Since I don’t ever take small doses of prednisone (it’s got to be big or nothing), I’m not sure that others experience something similar when they take a steroid taper for an RA flair. 

    When you take prednisone for your RA, do you experience brain fog?   If so, how long does it last?


  • I’ve got three more days on an oral taper of Decadron (my oral steroid of choice since prednisone and I really don’t get along too well).  I’m hoping that by this time next week I will be feeling much better.

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    So please, I look forward to your stories cause right now I have the attention span of a gnat.  Or rather maybe I feel like a gnat who doesn’t have the wisdom to not drop down in that cup of soda and get stuck all day in the sticky goo.

    Steroid Brain Fog.  What do you think?

     

    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

Published On: November 29, 2011