Fibromyalgia and Memory Loss Issue : Is it Real?

By: Angelika Marie

If you are suffering from fibromyalgia syndrome, you are probably experiencing a number of uncomfortable side effects. From muscle pain to chronic headaches, fibromyalgia patients often experience a plethora of symptoms, many of which make it difficult to function on a day-to-day basis. You may also be finding that your memory just isn’t what it used to be before you were diagnosed with fibromyalgia. You may be forgetting where you put your keys or your favorite shirt, or you may be having difficulties remembering plans that you made just a few days ago. But are these memory loss symptoms caused by fibromyalgia, and if so, what can you do about it?

Are You Losing Your Mind?
If you are experiencing problems with your memory, you may be wondering if you are losing your mind. These cognitive disruptions can be very distressing, particularly if you are used to being able to remember detailed information at the drop of a hat. But it is important to know that you are not alone. In fact, a large percentage of fibromyalgia patients experience problems with their memory, and this is often referred to as \”fibrofog.\” Fibrofog can leave you feeling as if you are in walking around in a haze, and can cause a number of worrisome symptoms. Common symptoms include:

difficulty remembering details
difficulty remembering new information
difficulty finding the right words to express yourself
problems identifying the meanings of similar words
confusing similarly shaped numbers

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{7e42071b14ee2e8f2fc2ef24c20bb0ab305ccdb09066d1e679a9e59b9a43d223} 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.

Use Learning Strategies
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:

benzodiazepines
tricyclic antidepressants
first generation antihistamines (such as Benadryl)
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.

This article was published on Fibromyalgia symptoms.org

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