Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can affect cognition. The effects of other less severe chronic airway disorders on cognition remain to be clarified. This study aimed to measure and compare cognitive deterioration in subjects with COPD, subjects with chronic non-obstructive bronchitis (CNOB), and asymptomatic smokers (AS), and to relate the corresponding prevalence to several demographic and clinical variables and to normal reference values.
Four hundred and two subjects (COPD n=229, CNOB n=127, and AS n=46) of comparable age were included in the study. Cognitive impairment was assessed using the Mini Mental Status test, the Clock Drawing test, and the Trail Making test A and B.
The extent and prevalence of cognitive deterioration was greater in COPD subjects, followed by CNOB subjects and AS ( P<0.001). The Medical Research Council and COPD Assessment test scores, forced expiratory volume in the first second predicted, and arterial partial pressure of O 2 and of CO 2 were related to the extent and the prevalence of cognitive deterioration. COPD subjects, CNOB subjects, and AS aged 40–69 years showed the greatest cognitive impairment ( P<0.01 compared to normal values). This was particularly clear in COPD subjects.
Cognitive impairment may start at the early stages of chronic airway damage and progress with a worsening of the respiratory condition. Indeed, the greatest cognitive deterioration was seen in COPD subjects. Cognition impairment may contribute to explaining the insufficient adherence to therapeutic plans and strategies, and the increasing social costs in respiratory subjects.