What is Papillary Conjunctivitis?
Giant papillary conjunctivitis (or often just papillary conjunctivitis or GPC) is a highly common complication of wearing contact lenses. The symptoms of GPC consist of red, itchy or irritated eyes. GPC is typically caused by irritation of the
conjunctiva, the membrane covering the white of the eye, by the contact lens itself. One of the most common causes of GPC is “overwearing” contact lenses – i.e. wearing them longer than the recommended duration – which can lead to protein buildup on the lenses which irritates the eyes.
The symptoms of papillary conjunctivitis can be highly uncomfortable and treatment is generally required to alleviate the symptoms.
How can I prevent GPC?
The best way to prevent giant papillary conjunctivitis is to make sure you avoid overwearing your contacts. Dispose of them as recommended – i.e. if you wear daily disposable lens, throw them out after wearing them for one day. In addition, make sure you do not wear lenses longer than 12 hours at a time. By not overwearing your lenses, you minimize the risk that protein will build up on the lens, which can cause GPC.
In addition, and related to not overwearing your contacts, you may want to try daily disposable lenses if you are not already wearing them. Because dailies are disposed of after one day of wear, there is simply less of an opportunity for protein to build up on them compared to lenses that are designed to be disposed of less frequently.
Finally, make sure you rinse your contacts before you put them in! Many people simply remove the contacts from the package and put them in their eyes without rinsing them. However, rinsing is absolutely necessary in order to prevent irritation. It also makes it easier on your eyes when you actually put the contacts in. Make sure to use a solution designed for sensitive eyes and be liberal with application of the solution when rinsing.
How do I treat it?
First things first, you need to forgo wearing contacts for a while. While most people don’t want to hear this, your eyes need a break from your contacts in order to recover. The best course of action is to avoid wearing your contacts for at least a few months, and perhaps longer depending on the severity of your GPC.
Once you’re back to wearing contacts, try switching the type of contacts you wear. Specifically, switch to daily disposables if you are not already wearing them. The potential for continued irritation is greatly reduced when using daily disposables (if actually disposed of on a daily basis).
You may also want to consider changing the brand of contacts you use. While not necessarily likely, it’s possible that something in the contacts you are wearing themselves is causing the irritation to your eyes. Switching contact brands is an easy way to correct this problem.
Finally, as mentioned above, make sure to use (and use liberally!) a rinsing solution designed for sensitive eyes. This will greatly reduce the risk of irritation and ease the transition on your eyes when you insert your lenses each day. You might also try using an antihistamine eye drop twice a day (morning and evening), as this can help prevent irritation as well. Just make sure to wait at least 15 minutes after using the drops before putting your contacts in each morning.