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Traditional prevalence data for dry eye disease (DED) has been collected via surveys requiring excessive time and resources and are limited in space and time to the participants examined. The objective of this study was to compare internet epidemiological data on dry eye prevalence obtained via Google Trends and Amazon.com with traditional survey data.
We queried Google Trends from 2013-18 in the United States using these DED terms: “dry eyes”, “Irritated eyes”, “Scratchy eyes”, “watery eyes”, “burning eyes”, “gritty eyes”, “eye drops”, “artificial tears”, “Refresh”, “Restasis”, “Systane”, “Oasis tears”, “Thera tears”, “Sooth”, “Blink tears”, “Visine”, “Clear eyes”, “Xiidra”, and “punctal plugs”. We compared these relative DED outputs to these control terms: “news”, “weather”, and “sports”. We queried Amazon.com using these artificial tear products: “Refresh”, “Oasis tears”, “Soothe”, “Blink tears”, and “Visine”. We compared the relative product reviews to control products.
The popularity of dry eye searches on Google showed a considerable rise that continues trending upward until 2018 (Fig. 1). While before 2017 the relative popularity of dry eye searches was low, beginning in 2017 the relative popularity of dry eye searches surpasses that of the control searches. Before 2017, eye drop products were relatively more popular than control products on Amazon.com compared to today (Fig. 2). Beginning in 2017, the relative popularity of eye drop products and control products on Amazon.com simultaneously began to spike upward, with the control products surpassing eye drop products at several points in time starting in 2017.
Internet data helps paint a more clear picture of the epidemiology of DED. Public interest in DED has steadily increased in the United States over the last decade. The reason behind the discrepancy in which people are more interested in DED over the last 2 years but the purchase of eye drop products has not mirrored this uptrend, remains unclear.