What is giant papillary conjunctivitis?
Giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC) is eye irritation that can develop when you wear contact lenses.
How does it occur?
GPC can be caused by:
- an allergic reaction to the chemicals in contact lens solutions
- an allergic reaction to deposits that can build up on contacts
- the contact lens rubbing on the inside of the upper eyelid.
Usually allergic reactions affect both eyes. Rubbing of the contact lens can cause irritation in only one eye.
One chemical that often causes GPC is a preservative called thimerosal. It is found in many contact lens solutions. It can remain in soft contact lenses after cleaning and disinfecting. Or it can coat the surface of gas permeable lenses. Your eyes may react to thimerosal or other chemicals at any time, even after you have used the same products for months or years.
At times GPC can cause bumps on the inside of your upper eyelids. Sometimes the bumps are small and can be seen only with special instruments. At other times, the bumps are large.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms may include:
- itchy feeling
- watery discharge
- changing vision
- drooping eyelids
- more movement of your contacts than usual when you blink.
These symptoms may or may not go away when you take your contacts out.
How is it diagnosed?
Your eye doctor will examine your eyes and the inside of your eyelids. He or she will watch to see if your eyelids seem to grab your contacts and keep them high on the front of your eyes. This happens most often if you have large bumps on the inside of your eyelids, but it can happen even if the bumps are very small.
How is it treated?
Treatment of GPC usually involves discontinuing contact lens wear for several days or weeks. Your doctor may recommend that you use different cleaning, wetting, or soaking solutions. You may need to change your lens-care routine to reduce the buildup of deposits on the lenses. Sometimes your lenses can be professionally cleaned to remove dirt and chemicals.
You may need to change to a different type of contacts. Your doctor may recommend disposable contacts that you throw away after 1 day. If you have contacts that you throw away after wearing them for 1 week, be sure to use the enzyme cleaner recommended by your doctor. If your soft contacts are irritating the inside of your eyelids, your doctor may recommend that you change to gas permeable contacts. They are shaped differently and may not rub your eyelid.
Your doctor may prescribe medicines to:
- reduce your symptoms right away
- help lessen your body's response to allergens (substances that cause allergic reactions).
How can I take care of my eyes?
Follow your doctor's directions carefully. It may take some time to discover the exact cause of your GPC and then to control it.
In addition, you can:
- Use your medicines as directed.
- Keep reusable contacts clean.
- Keep all appointments for checkups.