Objective: It is hypothesised that the presence of ocular, in addition to nasal, symptoms among patients with allergic rhinitis (AR) results in poorer quality of life, reduced work productivity and increased resource utilisation. This study investigated the impact on quality of life, burden of illness and healthcare resources among 1640 AR patients.
Methods: Data were drawn from an observational cross-sectional study of consulting patients undertaken in May/June 2008 in four European countries. Doctors provided records for the next four to five patients presenting with AR who filled out a self-completion survey which included the Work Productivity and Activity Impairment Allergic Specific Questionnaire (WPAI:AS), the Mini Rhinoconjunctivitis Quality of Life Questionnaire (RQOLQ) and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). Propensity scoring allied to regression-type analysis was used to assess the extra burden associated with ocular symptoms utilising two comparison groups (patients with nasal-only symptoms versus those with nasal and ocular symptoms). The analysis controlled for differences between the groups on confounding variables age, gender, smoking status and co-morbidities. The analysis was conducted twice, once controlling for differences between the groups in nasal severity and once without, recognising that it is not clear whether or not increased nasal severity symptoms are naturally associated with ocular symptoms. The severity of ocular symptoms as opposed to their presence alone was also assessed on outcome measures using regression type methods.
Results: A total of 1009 patient records met the inclusion criteria, of whom 69% presented with both ocular and nasal symptoms. The results show that the presence of ocular symptoms reduces quality of life, reduces work productivity and increases resource utilisation irrespective of whether differences in severity of nasal symptoms are accounted for between the comparison groups. Patients with nasal and ocular symptoms require more healthcare consultations. All work-related domains were statistically different, with the presence of ocular symptoms associated with greater impact on work hours missed and impairment while working. For each of the above this was the case regardless of whether or not adjustment was made for nasal severity (both p < 0.05). Patients with nasal and ocular symptoms also record an additional half a day more time off work in the last 3 months as a result of AR (nasal severity unadjusted or adjusted, both p < 0.05). Clinically meaningful differences were found in overall quality of life score as represented by RQLQ, with a mean score increase of 0.6 (nasal severity unadjusted) and 0.5 (nasal severity adjusted) associated with the presence of ocular symptoms (both p < 0.05). With regard to sleep quality, the presence of ocular symptoms was associated with a mean increase in PSQI of 1 when no adjustment was made for nasal severity (p < 0.05). When nasal severity was adjusted for, no significant difference was observed. Similarly, for the number of prescribed medications, when no adjustment was made for nasal severity, patients with ocular symptoms were observed to receive a significantly higher number of AR drugs (+0.19, p < 0.05) whereas with nasal severity adjusted for the difference was +0.17 which was not significant. In addition, with the exception of the number of AR drugs prescribed, for all outcome variables, the severity of ocular symptoms, and not just their presence, had a detrimental impact on the outcome.
Limitations: Since patients were recruited via the physician, the study aim was to represent the consulting population. In addition, it cannot be fully excluded that the likelihood for an individual patient to complete a questionnaire is influenced by differences in patient typology compared with those patients who chose not to complete. Given the geographical dispersion of the sample patients, it may be reasonable to assume possible differences in the intensity of the AR season based on latitude.
Conclusion: The added presence of ocular symptoms in AR patients suffering with nasal symptoms deteriorates patients' quality of life, leads to greater lost productivity and places higher burden on resource utilisation. Studies are therefore needed to test whether treatment options that address ocular in addition to nasal symptoms will improve quality of life and reduce both direct and indirect resource use associated with AR.