This stands for Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis and is sometimes called “contact lens overwear syndrome.” Contacts are made of plastic, but at a microscopic level they look like a sponge full of water. Just like a sponge, contacts tend to suck up irritants from the environment. Contacts also block the amount of oxygen the cornea normally absorbs from the air around us. This combination of irritants can aggravate the ocular surface and create a temporary inflammatory reaction. The eye becomes irritated and intolerant to contact lens wear. On exam, the eye looks red and may even have focal spots of inflammation on the cornea itself.  When the eyelids are flipped over, giant papillary “bumps” can be seen – they look similar to allergic hives that you get on the skin.  GPC tends to occur more in people who wear their contacts for extended periods or who sleep in their contacts, though sometimes we see this in people who are very conscientious with their ocular hygiene. Treatment usually involves a contact lens “holiday” to let the eyes recover.  Rewetting drops, allergy drops, and occasionally a mild steroid can speed the healing process.  Hopefully, after a few weeks of rest, contacts can slowly be resumed.

Dr. Timothy Root is a practicing ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon in Daytona Beach, Florida. His books, video lectures, and training resources can be found at:


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