Thumbnail image of: Conjunctivitis: Illustration

Eye Irritation: Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis

What is giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC)?

Conjunctivitis is redness and swelling of the clear membrane that lines the inside of your eyelids and covers the white of your eye. This membrane is called the conjunctiva. “Giant papillary” refers to large bumps that form under your eyelid. GPC is an eye irritation, not an infection.

What is the cause?

GPC can be caused by:

  • An allergic reaction to the chemicals in contact lens solutions. Your eyes may react to chemicals at any time, even after you have used the same products for months or years.
  • An allergic reaction to pollen or other allergens in the air that can build up on contact lenses
  • A contact lens, old cornea scar, a loose stitch after eye surgery, or other types of foreign bodies rubbing on the inside of the upper eyelid

Usually allergic reactions affect both eyes. Rubbing of a contact lens or a foreign body can cause irritation in only one eye.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Large bumps on the inside of your eyelid
  • Red, itchy, swollen or scratchy eyes
  • Painful sensitivity to light
  • Matting of eyelashes
  • Pus or watery discharge
  • Changing vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • More movement of your contacts than usual when you blink

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine your eyes and the inside of your eyelids. If you wear contact lenses, their movement on your eye will be examined. The lenses will also be examined for signs of buildup or damage.

How is it treated?

Treatment of GPC from contact lenses usually involves not wearing the lenses for several days or weeks. Your provider may suggest 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 provider may recommend disposable contacts that you throw away after 1 day. If your soft contacts are irritating the inside of your eyelids, your provider may recommend that you change to gas permeable contacts. They are shaped differently and may not rub your eyelid. Whatever type of contacts your provider recommends, it is very important that you clean them exactly as directed.

If the GPC is from allergies, you will need to try to avoid things that make your symptoms worse. You may need to use eyedrops or take a medicine.

Any foreign bodies in your eyes will be removed.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent giant papillary conjunctivitis?

  • Have regular eye exams, especially if you have a health condition such as asthma or eczema.
  • Follow your eye care provider’s instructions for wearing and caring for contact lenses. Do not wear them longer than recommended.
  • If caused by an allergy to pollen:
    • Stay away from trees and grasses as much as you can in the pollen season.
    • Keep doors and windows shut in the pollen season.
    • Use an air conditioner, if you have one, in your house and car.
Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site:
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-12-05
Last reviewed: 2014-10-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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