Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis

Giant papillary conjunctivitis or GPC, a relatively new illness, is an inflammatory, non-contagious condition targeting the conjunctiva the membrane lining the structures of the eye, including the eyelids. The papillae or the glands in the upper lid become larger than normal, causing itch and mucus discharge. Giant papillary conjunctivitis is associated with improper use of contact lenses or ocular prosthetics, as well with uncovered ends of stitches from surgery.

What Are the Symptoms of Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis?

If you have GPC, you may experience symptoms:

  • Red, swollen eyes
  • Itchiness
  • Large bumps on the inside of the eyelids
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Matting of the eyelashes
  • Pus or watery discharge
  • Burning sensation
  • Blurred vision
  • Foreign body sensation

Complications of Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis

When left untreated, GPC may cause a lot of physical and psychological damage, including:

  • Prolonged discomfort
  • Mental and emotional stress
  • Damage to the eye, such as corneal damage or scarring
  • Bacterial or viral (herpes) infections that can occur superimposed
  • GPC could be a chronic problem for those who regularly wear contact lenses

What Causes Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis?

Giant papillary conjunctivitis can result either from an allergic reaction or improper sanitizing routine of the contact lenses (be it soft or rigid) or ocular prosthesis.

  • Old cornea scars or loose post operatory stitches that rub on the eye can be a risk factor in GPC.
  • The allergic reaction may be caused by the buildup of chemicals or by other allergens present in the air that get caught between the contact lenses and the conjunctiva.
  • Beware that if you have a history of asthma, chronic allergies or hay fever, you are even more vulnerable to developing GPC.
  • If you wear contact lenses and notice you are blinking way too often, it would be a sign that your eyes perceive the contact lenses as foreign bodies. The act of constant blinking makes the lenses rub on the inner part of the eyelid, causing inflammation. In this case, contact your doctor. They will examine your eyes, the movements of the lenses on them and if there is any buildup or damage. The examination is performed under a microscope and it is painless.

How to Get Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis Treated

Giant papillary conjunctivitis is not an easy to handle condition. It may take weeks or even months to heal. Even after finishing the treatment, you may be left with increased sensitivity to contact lenses.

  • When suffering from GPC, the best way to start your treatment is by removing the contact lenses. Either only use them a couple of hours a day or switch to old-school glasses to speed up the healing process.
  • Try using an enzymatic or peroxide-based solution to better clean the contacts and remove any left debris. Keeping the contacts bacteria free is very important.
  • If there are prior loose sutures from surgery or implants, make sure they are corrected and in proper condition.
  • You may have to use prescription steroid eye drops, ointments or mast cell stabilizers and oral antihistamines to reduce inflammation and finalize the treatment. Some doctors recommend immunotherapy to desensitize the body when dealing with powerful allergic reactions.
  • After the condition is gone, you may have to use a new set of lenses. Change the monthly disposables to daily or weekly ones in order to better treat GPC and prevent it from recurring in the future.

How to Prevent Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis

As GPC is a common and difficult to treat condition, it is important to keep several effective tips in mind so that your eyes can stay out of its range.

  1. Have your eyes examined regularly, especially if you suffer from asthma, chronic allergies, hay fever or eczema. Examinations are performed with the aid of a slit lamp and it is painless.
  2. Take care when wearing and cleaning your contacts. Remember to use proper disinfecting solutions that remove the protein, chemical deposits and any debris. You can also wash your lenses (only if gas-permeable), rub them gently and apply solution before putting them on.
  3. Do not wear contact lenses longer than recommended. Take them off when going to sleep, as the constant and quick rubbing against the eyeball may cause serious and irreversible injuries.
  4. Change contacts daily or weekly so that you completely eliminate any risk of having bacteria developing on the contacts.
  5. Personal hygiene is also crucial. Remember to wash or disinfect your hands thoroughly before manipulating the contacts. Do not frequently rub eyes with your hands, especially when they are dirty.
  6. Avoid allergens. Stay away from trees and grass and shut the doors and windows during pollen season. Use the air-conditioning system in your house and car to clean the air. Carry oral antihistamines, like Claritin for emergencies, around with you.
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