Background Symptomatic allergic rhinitis reduces quality of life as a result of the symptoms experienced and possibly as a result of impaired psychological well-being and cognitive functioning. Few investigations have measured cognitive functions objectively and it remains uncertain whether allergic rhinitis leads to an objective reduction in cognitive functions.
Objective To evaluate the relationship between symptomatic allergic rhinitis, cognitive functions and psychological well-being. Differences between subjective and objective cognitive impairments were evaluated.
Methods The cognitive functions (working memory, memory retrieval, speed of information processing and flexibility of information processing) and psychological well-being of 26 patients with symptomatic allergic rhinitis and 36 healthy controls matched for intelligence, education, age and sex were compared. The influence of education, intelligence, sex and age was considered.
Results Overall, psychological well-being was significantly impaired in the patient group, as shown by higher scores in feelings of insufficiency, complaints of somatization, sleep disturbances and depressive feelings, whereas cognitive function was not.
Conclusions Allergic rhinitis was related to significantly impaired psychological well-being and to perceived impaired cognitive functioning. However, no significant objective impairment of cognitive functioning was found. Allergic patients may temporarily put more effort into sustaining performance, resulting in earlier exhaustion, which is not noticed during assessment but which impairs psychological well-being.