As people living with HIV, many of us experience brain fog, while others of us have a condition of brain inflammation. Normally this is something that you need to discuss with your doctor, however, these are two very different situations.
Brain fog also known as mental fatigue refers to a state of confusion, forgetfulness and lack of mental clarity that some of us have at some times of the day. Brain fog can also be caused by stress, poor sleep and other factors.
Brain fog is often characterised by feeling mentally ‘cloudy’. This is very different from those cognitive problems associated with other neurocognitive disorders that affect your memory, balance, and thinking or planning. Obviously, this can affect our ability to function in our daily life.
Brain inflammation, on the other hand, is when your brain is irritated by infection. Inflammation is part of our body’s natural defense system. Brain inflammation doesn’t hurt like an ankle or shoulder strain hurts. Instead, brain inflammation can cause symptoms like headache, fever, or a stiff neck and include complications like seizures, hallucinations, memory or speaking problems.
As we age, our immune system undergoes natural changes. As people living with HIV, often these changes to our immune system are a little faster. Our immune cells work to protect our body and defend us against all kinds of infections, or other illnesses. Ageing while living with HIV presents specific challenges to our immune system. One of these main challenges is dealing with chronic inflammation. This means it has gone on much longer than it is needed and begins to impact our health and our overall well-being.
Brain inflammation varies depending on the underlying issues we have. It can also lead to other complications such as memory loss, confusion, or loss of balance and in severe cases, it can be life-threatening. Being aware of changes in our body is important to know when things are not okay.
Some of things we can do reduce the risk of brain inflammation, is to have a balanced diet and take regular exercise. Also practising stress-reduction techniques such mindfulness, meditation, or yoga can help us reduce the impact of chronic stress which can contribute to our brain inflammation.
Sticking to our medication is critical to control brain inflammation and maintain our overall health. Some foods, allergens, or environmental factors trigger brain inflammation as well, so knowing what these are and steering clear of them, can be useful. Staying up to date with vaccinations, such as shingles and influenza is also especially important as we age. As people ageing with HIV, one thing we can do is continue to make sure we have good communication with our health care team, and each other.
If you have any other questions about ageing with HIV, or want to discuss any options to continue to live life well, call Positive Life on (02) 8357 8386, 1800 245 677 (free call) or email firstname.lastname@example.org