How does lupus affect memory?

The term "lupus fog" is almost universally known to people with lupus. The phrase reflects the difficulty that you may have in completing once-familiar tasks such as remembering names and dates, keeping appointments, balancing your checkbook or processing your thoughts. Called "cognitive dysfunction" or "cognitive impairment," this inability to recall information can be extremely frustrating. Symptoms may come and go or be continuous, making school or work difficult or even impossible in extreme cases. People with both lupus and fibromyalgia are even more likely to experience cognitive problems.

If you experience signs of confusion and memory loss, you may benefit from the skills of a cognitive therapist, either a psychologist or speech-language pathologist. These professionals can help you develop coping techniques to improve concentration and overcome these difficulties. Techniques may include puzzles, games, biofeedback, using a daily appointment calendar, balancing activities to avoid stress, etc. Cognitive therapists can also explain how to use memory aids and decrease distractions.

These tips may help ease the frustrations of cognitive impairment caused by lupus:

  • Pay attention when receiving new information. Repeat it or write it down. Verify any details.
  • Focus on one task at a time.
  • Take good care of your body; exercise, eat well and get enough sleep.
  • Learn memory techniques, such as associating a person’s name with an image or repeating the name several times in conversation.
  • Try to stay organized. Consider using a calendar notebook to keep appointments, plans, contact information and reminders in one place.

Medically reviewed on July 09, 2013

This article was published by the Lupus Foundation of America Office.