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Frequency and seasonal variation of ophthalmology-related internet searches

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      Abstract

      Objective: To use internet search activity to reveal the intensity of public interest and seasonal variation in ophthalmology-related diseases, symptoms, and treatments. Design: Time-series analysis of internet search data.
      Methods: Google trend data for ophthalmology terms for the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia from 2004 through 2008 were studied. Mean population-weighted temperature and fraction of schools in session were estimated from databases, and relative potential sunlight intensity was calculated. Multivariable linear regression was used to predict search term frequency based on environmental variables.
      Results: Relative to diabetes searches (100%), common US eye-related searches were: “glasses” (44%), “Lasik” (16%), “contact lenses” (12.4%), “pinkeye” (9.5%), “glaucoma” (5.9%), “cataract” (4.1%), “dry eyes” (2.1%), “eyetwitching” (1.9%), and “eye pain” (1.9%). Seasonal nature was high for “conjunctivitis” (r2 = 0.37), “pink eye” (r2 = 0.32), “eye floaters” (r2 = 0.26), and “stye” (r2 = 0.19), moderate for “glaucoma” (r2 = 0.09) and “eye twitching” (r2 = 0.06), and low for “uveitis” (r2 = 0.02) and “macular degeneration” (r2 < 0.01). Heat was associated with “stye” and cold was associated with “pink eye,” “conjunctivitis,” and “glaucoma” (all p < 0.002). Sunlight intensity was associated with “dry eyes” and “eye floaters” (p < 0.01). School sessions were associated positively with “eye twitching” (p < 0.001) and negatively with “eyeglasses.” “Eye allergy,” “itchy eyes,” and “watery eyes” were highly seasonal (r2 = 0.75–0.38) and associated with “pollen” searches.
      Conclusions: Internet ophthalmology searches relate (in decreasing order) to refractive correction, eye diseases, and eye symptoms. Search study reveals the seasonality and environmental associations of interest in health terms.

      Résumé

      Objet: Scruter les activités de recherche sur Internet pour découvrir le degré et le variation saisonnière de l’intérêt que le public porte aux maladies liées a l’ophtalmologie, à leurs symptômes et à leur traitement.
      Nature: Analyse de séries chronologiques des données de recherche sur Internet.
      Methodes: Étude de la tendance des données sur les termes ophtalmologiques utilisés dans Google aux États-Unis, au Royaume-Uni, au Canada et en Australie de 2004 à 2008. La moyenne de température pondérée selon la population et la fraction des sessions scolaires ont été estimées à partir des bases de donnees et l’intensité lumineuse relative du soleil a été calculée. La régression linéaire multivariable a été utilisée pour prévoir la fréquence des termes de recherche en fonction des variables environnementales.
      Résultats: En relation au diabète (100 %), aux É.-U., les recherches usuelles liées a l’\ceil etaient: «lunettes», (44 %), «Lasik» (16 %), «verres de contact» (12,4 %), «œil rose» (9,5 %), «glaucome» (5,9 %), «cataracte» (4,1 %), «œil sec» (2,1 %), «tic oculaire» (1,9 %) et«douleur oculaire» (1,9 %). Les recherches saisonnières étaient élevées pour la «conjunctivite» (r2 = 0,37), l’«œil rose» (r2 = 0,32), les «corps flottants» (r2 = 0,26) et les «orgelets» (r2= 0,19), modérées pour le «glaucome» (r2 = 0,09) et le «tic oculaire» (r2 = 0,06), et faible pour l’«uveite» (r2 = 0,02) et la «dégénérescence maculaire» (r2 < 0,01). La chaleur était associée à l’«orgelet» et le froid, à l’«œil rose», la «conjunctivite» et le «glaucome» (tous p < 0,002). L’intensité de la lumière solaire était associée à l’«œil sec» et aux «corps flottants» (p < 0,01). Les sessions scolaires étaient associées positivement au «tic oculaire» (p < 0,001) et négativement aux «lunettes». L’«allergie oculaire», le «prurit oculaire» et l’«œil humide» étaient très saisonniers (r2 = 0,75–0,38) et associés aux recherches sur le «pollen».
      Conclusions: La recherche sur Internet touchant l’ophtalmologie est lieé (en ordre décroissant) à la correction réfractive, aux maladies et aux symptômes oculaires. L’etude révèle le caractère saisonnier et environnemental des associations d’intérêt en matière de santé.

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