Are Your Contact Lenses Causing Allergies?

July 23rd, 2018
set of contact lenses

Soft contact lenses are often a helpful way to improve your vision, but some people can actually have an allergic reaction to them.

Generally, contact lenses are a convenient alternative to glasses and a comfortable way to see. If you’re a contact lens wearer, you may have experienced a little discomfort during allergy season. Typical eye allergy symptoms include redness, itchy eye, and eye irritation. Many eye allergies are a form of seasonal allergy, but some people can actually have an allergic reaction to contacts.

A contact lens wearer who develops an allergic reaction called giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC), contact lenses end up causing more irritation than other corrective methods. If you’re experiencing eye irritation or discomfort from a contact lens allergy, you may be suffering from GPC. Here are the symptoms to look out for and how you can find relief.

GPC Symptoms

Though giant papillary conjunctivitis partially shares a name with pink eye (also known as conjunctivitis), the two are quite different. Conjunctivitis is an eye infection, whereas GPC is an allergic reaction that results in small bumps (papillae) forming on the upper tarsal conjunctiva, or the underside of the eyelid. Other symptoms can include redness and itching. 

GPC caused by contact lens irritation is known as secondary GPC, while primary GPC is caused by other conditions like asthma, eczema, or seasonal allergies. 1-5% of contact lens wearers are affected. The type of contact lens solution you use, the type of lenses you wear (daily disposable vs. long-term), and how clean your contact lenses and supplies are can play a role in whether or not you develop this allergic reaction.

Similar to other eye conditions, GPC doesn’t have many noticeable symptoms in its early stages. As it progresses, you’ll develop tiny bumps on the inside of your eyelid along with itchiness, redness, blurred vision, and an excess of mucus.

As GPC gets worse, all of these symptoms will intensify too. You may start feeling pain when wearing your contacts or find they slide around your eyes rather than staying in one place. At its worst, GPC will make lens wear nearly unbearable. Even waking up in the morning may be difficult due to the amount of mucus your eye produces.

Effective Treatments

There are a variety of ways to treat GPC. Before you stop contact lens wear, there are some options that may help alleviate the discomfort, such as prescription eye drops, switching contact lens solution, and temporarily stopping the use of contacts until your symptoms clear.

Because GPC is caused by a foreign body, the most effective way to ease symptoms is by removing the source of irritation. Since people who wear hard contact lenses are ten times less likely to develop GPC than soft contact lens wearers, you may want to consider switching to hard contacts or glasses to correct your vision.

Another long-term solution for those who cannot wear contacts is LASIK eye surgery, which can help improve your vision without the use of contacts or glasses. LASIK is a corrective procedure that reshapes the cornea with a laser, resulting in permanently improved, stable vision. It’s brief, lasting around 30 minutes or less, and has a relatively quick recovery time.

If you’re experiencing GPC-related discomfort, there’s no need to continue to suffer. An eye doctor can help you figure out the best way to see clearly without any pesky bumps or irritation. The expert eye care professionals at ICON Eyecare are here to help you choose the solution that’s right for you. Schedule a consultation with us today.