Eye- and skin symptoms in German office workers--subjective perception vs. objective medical screening

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2001 May;203(4):311-6. doi: 10.1078/1438-4639-00042.


The question of whether perceived sensation correlates with medical tests was examined using data from the ProKlimA project (1994-1999) in which sensory perception and medical examination of Sick Building Syndrome related complaints were examined in 14 office buildings across Germany. Within the ProKlimA study, a subsample of 817 persons participated in ophthalmological examinations; dermatological tests were conducted on 925 persons using serni quantitative dermatological methods. Participants of both sub-samples responded to a questionnaire assessing sensory perception over 6 sub-scales (eyes, skin nose, mouth, throat and nervous systems) consisting of 9 to 11 items per sub-scale. Non-parametric analysis revealed a significant association between medical tests of symptoms and self-reported complaints regarding skin/eyes. Break up time, a measure of tear film stability, appeared to be the best indicator for self-reported eye complaints. In terms of skin symptoms, low sebaceous secretion and/or low stratum corneum hydration was associated significantly with increased skin complaints. But not all items of the sensory perception modules reflected the medical diagnoses in the same way. For instance the items "rough skin" and "dry skin" described the medical diagnosis "low sebum content" better than "irritated skin", "rash" or "spotty skin". However, sensory perception modules differed in their relationship to medical tests, so that questionnaires may be used as indicators not as substitutes for medical test data. The choice of method has to be determined by the purpose of the research project.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environment, Controlled
  • Eye Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Eye Diseases / epidemiology
  • Eye Diseases / etiology
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Sick Building Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Sick Building Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Sick Building Syndrome / etiology
  • Skin Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Skin Diseases / epidemiology
  • Skin Diseases / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workplace