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Isdin Oke, Ankoor S Shah; Seasonal and Geographic Trends in Ophthalmology-Related Internet Search Queries. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2018;59(9):3784.
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It is challenging to obtain epidemiologic information on the incidence and prevalence of common eye conditions such as “stye” and “pink eye.” Patients are increasingly reliant on web-based searches to self assess eye-related symptoms. We hypothesize that search query analysis will provide insight into the seasonal and geographic patterns of common eye diseases.
We performed a retrospective search query analysis using the Google Trends database for ophthalmology-related symptoms and diagnoses. Queries were restricted to the USA within a 5-year interval (01/2012 - 01/2017). US climate data was gathered from the National Centers for Environmental Information. US population data was gathered from the US Census Bureau. Matlab Curve-Fitting Toolbox was used to perform linear and nonlinear regression analysis and goodness-of-fit was assessed by adjusted coefficients of determination (r2).
Of search terms queried (N=115), periodic seasonal trends were observed for “stye” (r2=0.81), “eye drops” (r2=0.82), “pink eye” (r2=0.76), “itchy eye” (r2=0.67), “conjunctivitis” (r2=0.63), “floaters” (r2=0.61), “eye discharge” (r2=0.56),“chalazion (r2=0.46) and “corneal abrasion” (r2=0.30). Stye, floaters, itchy eye and abrasion queries peaked annually in June-August wheras pink eye, conjunctivitis and eye discharge queries peaked in Febuary-April. An increase in stye query frequency (16.4±0.2%) was appreciated during the summer compared to the winter. A linear relationship was observed between stye query frequency and increasing average annual temperature of a state (r2=0.59).
We demonstrate periodic seasonal trends in several ophthalmology-related search terms. We further illustrate an association between “stye” query frequency and increasing seasonal and geographic temperatures. We propose that search query analysis may serve as a powerful tool to guide future hypothesis-driven research and supplement current understanding of the epidemiology of common eye diseases.
This is an abstract that was submitted for the 2018 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Honolulu, Hawaii, April 29 - May 3, 2018.
Examples illustrating periodic trends in the query frequency as a function of time.
A) "Stye" query frequency in each US state. B) Average annual temperature in each state. C) Correlation between stye query frequency and average annual temperature.
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