What is Papillary Conjunctivitis?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Papillary conjunctivitis, also known as giant papillary conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the inside of the eyelid, usually the upper eyelid, where rough bumps and plaques appear. The cause is usually contact lens wear and it can onset at any time, even when people are very careful about caring for their contacts and protecting their eyes. Treatment involves taking lenses out, using eyedrops to address the inflammation, and resting the eye. Once fully recovered, new lenses can be inserted. If the condition returns, it may be necessary to switch to glasses for vision correction or to consider surgery.

Eyedrops may offer some relief from papillary conjunctivitis.
Eyedrops may offer some relief from papillary conjunctivitis.

Patients with papillary conjunctivitis may notice that their eyelids appear puffy, swollen, and red. Blinking can be painful, as the bumps are dragged across the surface of the eye and there may be more discharge from the eye than usual as the eye attempts to deal with the inflammation. If the eyelid is pulled down or flipped, the bumps will be visible, making diagnosis of this condition very easy.

Contact lenses are often to blame for papillary conjunctivitis.
Contact lenses are often to blame for papillary conjunctivitis.

Management of papillary conjunctivitis can include using warm compresses, as well as applying eyedrops. When the eye is fully rested, the bumps should resolve and the eyelid will return to its normal texture and color. Continuing to wear contact lenses through the inflammation can lead to an exacerbation of symptoms and may cause considerable discomfort for the patient.

Patients with papillary conjunctivitis may experience puffy, swollen and red eyelids.
Patients with papillary conjunctivitis may experience puffy, swollen and red eyelids.

Some other potential causes of papillary conjunctivitis include wearing a prosthetic eye or having exposed suture knots left behind after surgery. These knots must be left in place while the eye heals, and they will eventually dissolve or be removed by the surgeon. People who notice symptoms like pain, redness, discharge, or vision changes after surgery should make an appointment to see an ophthalmologist for evaluation. Untreated eye conditions can cause partial vision loss or blindness.

Wearing a prosthetic eye may cause papillary conjunctivitis to develop.
Wearing a prosthetic eye may cause papillary conjunctivitis to develop.

If a patient experiences recurrent bouts of papillary conjunctivitis after obvious causes are addressed, there may be an underlying inflammatory process going on. A more thorough evaluation may be required to see if inflammation is occurring elsewhere in the body and to rule out environmental irritants; the patient could be having an allergic reaction to something like smoke, pollen, or pet dander. It is important to be aware that allergies can arise at any time, even after years of not reacting to an allergen when exposed, and thus they should not be ruled out if a patient hasn't experienced any recent environmental changes like a new home or a different office at work.

Patients with papillary conjunctivitis may experience pain when blinking.
Patients with papillary conjunctivitis may experience pain when blinking.
Anyone suffering inflammation or pain in the eye should seek medical attention.
Anyone suffering inflammation or pain in the eye should seek medical attention.
Management of papillary conjunctivitis may include using warm compresses.
Management of papillary conjunctivitis may include using warm compresses.
In some cases, inflammation may be caused by pet dander or other irritants.
In some cases, inflammation may be caused by pet dander or other irritants.
Contact wearers who develop chronic papillary conjunctivitis may instead opt for LASIK surgery to correct their vision.
Contact wearers who develop chronic papillary conjunctivitis may instead opt for LASIK surgery to correct their vision.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

ZipLine

@MikeMason-- Have you noticed that most eye doctors wear eyeglasses? This is because they know the issues that come with contact lenses well. Regular glasses are the safest and best way to treat eyesight problems. Glasses will never give you an eye infection.

Papillary conjunctivitis might return when you wear your contacts again. Some people are actually allergic to the material the contacts are made of and other times, people don't clean their contacts properly and bacteria grows on them. It could also be that the contacts are not properly fitted or have the wrong diameter and rub the eyelid causing irritation.

It can take up to six weeks for papillary conjunctivitis to heal completely but it's usually less than that. You should avoid contacts for at least three weeks before trying them again.

serenesurface

I've been getting recurrent papillary conjunctivitis because of my prosthetic eye. If this continues, I will have to stop wearing my prosthetic eye. Right now I'm on steroid eye drops. Is anyone else in this situation?

stoneMason

I just found out that I have this. I went to the eye doctor because I thought that I had something in my eye. My eye was sore, painful and felt very dry and irritated. My doctor said that my eyelid is infected and inflamed from contact use and that I have to stop using contacts for a while. I'm wearing my glasses and applying antibiotic eye drops and moisturizing eye drops several times a day. My eye still feels sore though.

How long does it usually take for this to heal? After it has healed, will the eye infection return when I wear contacts again? I don't like wearing glasses at all.

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