Allergies of the eye are overreactions of the immune system to foreign substances that might otherwise be harmless.
Have You Developed an Allergy to Your Contact Lenses?
The touching of a contact lens to the eye’s conjunctiva can cause an immune response that results in redness, itchiness, and general discomfort. This occurs when the contact lenses themselves or the proteins in tear film that bind to the surface of the lens can cause an irritative response of the conjunctiva, resulting in redness, itching, mucous discharge, and lens discomfort.
A more severe form known as giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC) is typified by large swellings of the mucous membranes of the upper lid and may result ultimately in the inability to wear lenses. The name comes from what we see when we flip the upper eyelid: 1-2 mm bumps called “giant papillae”.
Contact lens allergy generally occurs in patients who have worn contact lenses for years and is a common occurrance. Patients often arrive in our office concerned that their contacts are no longer comfortable and have noticed a slight discharge from their eyes. It’s precisely the long duration of wear that triggers the condition. However, patients with asthma, hay fever, animal dander or other airborne allergies may be at greater risk of developing contact lens allergy.
Contact Lens Allergy Symptoms
- Swelling or puffiness of the eyes
- Mucous discharge
- Contact lens discomfort
- Foreign body sensation
The symptoms described above may not necessarily mean that you have allergies of the eye. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor for a complete exam.
Contact Lens Allergy Treatment
The key to treatment is decreased lens wear time, frequent replacement of the contacts and diligent cleaning of the lenses each day. Disposable contacts help because they are discarded before the protein builds up. Sleeping in contacts must be avoided.
Besides the above, treatments may include allergy drops or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drops. Once the lens allergy clears up, the patient may want to consider LASIK vision correction to avoid a recurrence. Call for a free screening exam to see if this is an option for you. Remember that Dr. Cutarelli is one of the most experienced LASIK surgeons in the Englewood, Colorado area.
Are you having problems with your contacts or need a thorough eye examination? Give us a call.