Background: The aim of this study was to investigate the quality of life of a population of Finnish metalworkers who were exposed to hand-arm vibration (HAV) and who suffered from white fingers, tingling, or numbness of the fingers, musculoskeletal disorders of the upper extremities, or symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
Methods: A questionnaire on vibration exposure in the workplace and symptoms relating to the upper extremities was sent to a sample (n = 530) of members of the local Metalworkers Union. Of those who reported vibration-induced white fingers (VWF), numbness or tingling of the fingers, or symptoms of CTS, 131 men participated in clinical examinations. Their cumulative lifelong exposure to HAV was evaluated, and the health-related quality of life was assessed using EuroQoL(EQ)-5D.
Results: There was an inverse relationship between the EQ-5D index score and cumulative exposure to HAV: as exposure to HAV increased, the quality of life became more impaired (P < 0.001). Vascular, sensorineural, and musculoskeletal symptoms and symptoms of CTS decreased significantly with the EQ-5D index score, sensorineural symptoms causing the most significant impairment in EQ-5D dimensions of mobility, usual activities, pain/discomfort, and anxiety/depression). The mean EQ-5D index and the visual analogic scale (VAS)-score were lower for those patients who complained of difficulties at work or during leisure time due to HAVS symptoms.
Conclusion: The findings of the present study suggest that symptoms related to HAV exposure significantly diminish the quality of life. This impairment can be seen in the different dimensions of well-being that are measured by EQ-5D. EQ-5D seems to correlate with both the severity of symptoms and the cumulative exposure index, and can thus be recommended as part of the health examination of workers exposed to HAV.