Your Health: Is inflammation to blame for brain fog?

Chronic inflammation is often invisible, with no telltale signs, yet doctors say it can take a toll.
Chronic inflammation is often invisible, with no telltale signs, yet doctors say it can take a toll.
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 12:54 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - As we age, our chances rise for memory lapses, forgetfulness, and a decline in cognitive function. Research over the past few years suggests inflammation plays a role.

Now, researchers want to determine how it affects memory problems in cancer patients.

Acute inflammation is easy to see – a cut, redness, or swelling. It’s the body’s response to injury. But chronic inflammation is often invisible, with no telltale signs, yet doctors say it can take a toll.

“It’s always been thought that inflammation can potentially have a connection between cognitive changes, even in non-cancer patients,” says Dr. Deena Mary Atieh Graham, a medical oncologist with Georgetown University.

Now, cancer researchers want to know what role chronic inflammation caused by physical or emotional stress can play on a patient’s cognition. In a recent study, they took blood from 400 breast cancer survivors to measure their c-reactive protein, or CRP, levels.

“These inflammatory markers or proteins in your blood can be elevated when the body is under some form of stress,” Dr. Graham said.

Dr. Graham and colleagues at Georgetown found that “chronic inflammation may play a role in the development of cognitive problems.”

They say by identifying a scientific predictor for memory problems they can help patients prevent it.

“I don’t think that’s, it’s going to be a one and done, but I think this is a step,” said Dr. Graham.

Dr. Graham says the next step will be treatments to lower the inflammation. That might not be a medicine that patients can take. It could be lifestyle changes in combination with other therapies.

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