Bausch & Lomb (NYSE:BOL) doesn't have the pizzazz of other, more sprightly firms out there, but the 150-year-old eye-care company saw clear gains in first-quarter earnings yesterday, with earnings per share of $0.43, a 39% year-over-year increase that was well ahead of analysts' estimates.

The jump in profits was matched by a rise in sales across three out of four of the company's units. Like a lot of global corporations reporting earnings recently, though, Bausch & Lomb benefited from the weak dollar. Before adjustments, overall sales increased 14% to $510.3 million, while on a constant currency basis, revenue was up 6%.

This is not explosive growth to be sure, but long-term earnings prospects are looking up. Management expects margin improvement as the revenue mix shifts to new products. Based on continued momentum and margin improvement, the firm raised 2004 earnings expectations $0.10 a share to the $2.70-to-$2.75 range.

Contact lenses, the company's bread and butter, are not terribly sexy, but they bring in steady sales and have room to grow globally. Bausch & Lomb is already an established player overseas, with non-U.S. sales making up 60% of first-quarter revenue. The area with the greatest potential appears to be Asia, where revenue grew 10% in the quarter. Going forward, the firm sees more than 20% annual sales increases in China and double-digit increases in Japan. Sales in Japan in particular should be helped by Japanese regulatory clearance late last year of a Bausch & Lomb one-day contact lens.

The firm's real growth driver, though, could be its refractive surgery business, where it competes with the likes of Alcon (NYSE:ACL) and VISX (NYSE:EYE). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Bausch & Lomb's Zyoptix refractory system in October. Since then, sales in this segment have taken off, with year-over-year sales growth of 22% and 19% in the last two quarters.

In sum, while Bausch & Lomb won't set the world on fire with its growth, at 24 times the lower end of expected earnings, it may be a company investors should keep an eye on.

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Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Ill. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned here.