Purpose: Adolescents with postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS) often experience ill-defined cognitive impairment referred to by patients as "brain fog." The objective of this study was to evaluate the symptom of brain fog as a means of gaining further insight into its etiology and potential palliative interventions.
Methods: Eligible subjects who reported having been diagnosed with POTS were recruited from social media web sites. Subjects were asked to complete a 38-item questionnaire designed for this study, and the Wood mental fatigue inventory (WMFI).
Results: Responses were received from 138 subjects with POTS (88 % female), ranging in age from 14 to 29 years; 132 subjects reported brain fog. WMFI scores correlated with brain fog frequency and severity (P < 0.001). The top ranked descriptors of brain fog were "forgetful," "cloudy," and "difficulty focusing, thinking and communicating." The most frequently reported brain fog triggers were fatigue (91 %), lack of sleep (90 %), prolonged standing (87 %), dehydration (86 %), and feeling faint (85 %). Although aggravated by upright posture, brain fog was reported to persist after assuming a recumbent posture. The most frequently reported interventions for the treatment of brain fog were intravenous saline (77 %), stimulant medications (67 %), salt tablets (54 %), intra-muscular vitamin B-12 injections (48 %), and midodrine (45 %).
Conclusions: Descriptors for "brain fog" are most consistent with it being a cognitive complaint. Factors other than upright posture may play a role in the persistence of this symptom. Subjects reported a number of therapeutic interventions for brain fog not typically used in the treatment of POTS that may warrant further investigation.