Lasik industry insiders may have expected a surge in interest
in the popular laser eye surgery that reduces the need for corrective
lenses when news programs carried stories of soft contact lens wearers
being at increased risk for a rare but serious eye infection. Lasik
can be a successful alternative to contact lenses. An analysis of
Google search trends indicates that interest in Lasik actually dropped
dramatically upon news of potential contact lens problems.
More than half of all Internet searches are generated at Google.com.
Known as Fusarium Kerititis, the infection associated with a
contact lens cleaning solution could cause permanent vision loss
if left untreated. More than 100 people in the US have been diagnosed
in the last 10 months with this condition. Eight required corneal
The hunt for a source of the infection has focused on Bausch
& Lomb's ReNu with MoistureLoc contact lens solution. Bausch & Lomb
has pulled the product from store shelves and halted all production.
The majority of those who contracted the fungus used ReNu with MoistureLoc,
but not all. A recent preliminary investigation by the US Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) could not find a source for the fungus
at Bausch & Lomb's Greenville SC manufacturing and packaging plant,
where all of the suspect solution originated.
Internet searches for Lasik information (blue) remained
high in key regions despite an overall decrease in interest
immediately following news of potential contact lens
solution problems. Red bars indicate contact lens information
Some Lasik industry analysts speculated that an increased awareness
of potential vision threatening problems with contact lenses may
spark renewed interest in Lasik, which is surgery with a laser to
reshape the cornea (clear front of the eye) and is often a permanent
alternative to contacts and glasses. Bad news about contact lenses
did not increase interest in Lasik, according to Google search trends.
Search volume for Lasik information actually waned.
The number of Lasik procedures performed in recent weeks has
flattened to a small growth in volume, according to Dave Harmon,
president of MarketScope, a Manchester Missouri based consultancy
that tracks the laser industry.
Although overall interest in Lasik information experienced a
downturn, some US regions saw a strong interest in Lasik information.
Denver, Cincinnati, and Washington DC topped the cities where searches
for Lasik information originated.