FM/CFS/ME RESOURCES - Fibromyalgia and Short Term Memory Loss


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Fibromyalgia and Short Term Memory Loss

One of the biggest challenges facing many people with fibromyalgia (FM) is - wait - what was I going to say?

Short-term memory problems can be embarrassing, frightening, and even dangerous for people with fibromyalgia.

Many people say they "can't find a word" when trying to communicate with others. Sadly, this is a frequent problem for many people with FM and can be very embarrassing. Other people describe challenges like being unable to finish school because they can't remember what they've read.

Can Fibromyalgia Affect Your Memory?

Dr. Mehmet Oz says,

    "If you keep forgetting names and where you put your keys, fibromyalgia isn't necessarily to blame. Like gray hair and wrinkles, memory problems can be a feature of aging. However, many people with fibromyalgia complain that they have become forgetful and have other cognitive problems, such as a poor attention span. There's even a name for this mental fuzziness linked to fibromyalgia: fibro fog."

Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum answered,

    "Brain fog" (also known as "fibrofog") is a routine part of fibromyalgia. It is associated with difficulty with short-term memory as well as difficulty with word finding and substitution. Fortunately, mental function improves along with energy and pain relief when using the "SHINE Protocol." It can be scary and sometimes people with "fibrofog" are afraid that they are developing Alzheimer's. But these are two different things. "Fibrofog" is when you keep forgetting where you left the keys. Alzheimer's is when you forget how to use your keys.

Are Fibromyalgia Memory Problems Real?

Those around you may be telling you that your memory problems are just a figment of your imagination. But recent studies now reveal that memory problems and fibromyalgia seem to go hand in hand.

A study performed at the University of Michigan in 2002 examined the cognitive abilities of fibromyalgia patients and healthy controls. Involving 69 patients, this study required participants to perform a variety of cognitive tests. Upon completion of the study, fibromyalgia patients were found to perform more poorly on all of the tests when compared to healthy controls of a similar age. Additionally, fibromyalgia sufferers performed at about the same cognitive levels as people who were more than 20 years older than them. This study suggests that the memory loss is a true symptom of fibromyalgia.

What Causes Fibromyalgia Memory Loss?

Once fibromyalgia memory loss was determined to be genuine, this left a lot of questions as to why fibromyalgia sufferers experienced these symptoms.

  • Chronic Pain:
    A study performed at Northwestern University found a link between chronic pain and memory loss. Imaging studies performed on chronic pain patients showed a 25% increase in pre-frontal cortex activity, when compared to healthy controls. The pre-frontal cortex is also responsible for helping your brain retain new information and short-term details. However, when pain symptoms were reduced in these patients, activity in the pre-frontal cortex decreased, and memory actually improved. This supports the theory that pain may have a significant role to play in fibromyalgia memory loss.

  • Sleep and Memory:
    There also appears to be a link between sleep habits and memory and cognition. Studies have shown that people are able to remember information better if they have a period of restful sleep in between study and recall. This effect has been termed the "sleep effect." Because fibromyalgia patients often suffer from disturbed sleep patterns, the sleep effect on memory may be greatly reduced in fibromyalgia sufferers. In particular, sleep disorders like sleep apnea, may significantly reduce your ability to retain and recall new information.

Beating Memory Loss: Tips For Improved Cognition

Though memory loss can be quite upsetting, it doesn't have to be a fact of life when it comes to fibromyalgia. There are few things that you can do to help improve your memory while retaining control over your symptoms.

Learning strategies are a great way to help your brain remember information and details. They simply provide you with a more organized way of storing and retrieving information. Some effective learning strategies include:

  • Association:
    When you are learning new information, try to form associations between individual details. For instance, if you are trying to remember someone named Autumn, picture them standing amongst fallen autumn leaves.

  • Rehearsal:
    Rehearsal is a great way to improve your memory. Simply rehearse what you need to remember a few times over. This will help your brain to store the information and mark it for easy recall.

  • Visualization:
    Remembering words or directions is difficult because they are abstract. Try to picture an image of what you need to remember instead.

  • Exercise Your Brain
    Just as your body needs exercise, so does your brain! Try to exercise your brain a little bit every day, by completing brainteasers, crossword puzzles, or trivia questions. Find an activity you enjoy and stick with it!

  • Avoid Certain Medications
    Unfortunately, certain medications appear to impact directly on memory. By identifying which of your medications affect your cognition, you can help to lessen your cognitive difficulties. Medications that are known to affect memory include:

If you are taking any of these medications and they appear to be affecting your memory, talk with your health care provider. She may be able to suggest an alternative medication.

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