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My Daily Battle with Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis

I don’t normally write personal posts. This blog is my creative outlet where I share all things DIY and home. That being said, I felt the need to share my daily battle with this chronic eye problem to possibly help someone else who is struggling with it. Also, I’ve dealt with Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis for a good 13 years now, so I’ve researched the heck out it. To my surprise, I haven’t found a lot of useful information from other personal experiences. That’s when I decided it was time to share my own.

my daily battle with giant papillary conjunctivitis

I told you I’ve been battling GPC for 13 years now. That’s not entirely correct. I’ve battled it off and on all my life, but it’s been a more consistent and permanent battle for the last 13. I noticed a major change right after I moved from mid to south Alabama. I used to be a daily contact wearer. You wouldn’t find me in glasses unless it was late at night and I was getting ready for bed. When we moved it all seemed to change.

I know what you’re thinking…must be allergies. That’s what I thought too. We will revisit that thought soon.

So what was the problem with my eyes?

The best way I can explain it is the constant sensation of “grit” beneath my lids. My eyes itch all the time and many mornings I wake up with swollen eyelids. The only way to really relieve the irritation is to lay down, close my eyes and lay a cool compress on them. I do have dry eye too, but this is different. On bad days when it’s really flared up, my eyes will produce a white film. So what did I do?

Shortly after we moved I started seeing an optometrist for this issue. Long story short, after trying many different types of contact lens trials (and the Dr. accusing me of complaining to get free trials, GRRRR), I said to heck with contacts (and that Dr.) and I decided to wear my glasses for a while.

Fast forward about six months later; the problem was a little better and I had not been wearing my contacts. I thought my days of contact lens wearing were over.

For most people that would be ok, but I HATE wearing my glasses. I feel like I don’t see as well in them and I certainly don’t see as well at night. Not only that, but I tend to get headaches when I wear my glasses for a long period of time.

That’s when I decided it was time for corrective eye surgery.

I searched for a good Lasik Dr. and spoke with many people about recommendations. The best solution I could find was an eye Dr. in New Orleans who partnered with an Optometrist near my home town to do the initial consult.

I went to see the Optometrist for the initial consult to make sure I was a candidate for the surgery. After a few test it looked like I was a good candidate and we set up a surgery date in New Orleans.

I was so excited to not have to worry about wearing glasses anymore! I figured the longer I could go without wearing my contacts the better my chances were of getting rid of the eye irritation that bothered me daily.

When the surgery day finally came I was excited and nervous. I felt like getting rid of glasses and eventually getting rid of the eye irritation was too good to be true….and I was right about that.

When I arrived at the Lasik center in New Orleans they looked over my paperwork and said everything was a go, but they needed to do one test that the Optometrist did not do on the initial evaluation.

The test that the Optometrist failed to do (maybe he didn’t have the equipment to do it) was the test that showed your corneal thickness.

As I sat in a corner in the Lasik office I knew something was wrong. I saw the Dr. come toward me with a baffled look on his face.

He came over and said, “I’m so sorry you’ve traveled a few hours to see me, but your corneal thickness is way to thin for this surgery. For most patients with thin corneas I would suggest another procedure called PRK, but you are even too thin for that. Also, if any Dr. tells you otherwise they are not looking out for your best interest. Again, I’m so sorry.”

My heart sank from disappointment.

I hate that we traveled a few hours to be turned away, but I was also thankful for a Dr. who was looking out for my best interest and not his pocket book.

Fast forward about a year.

After switching back and forth between my contact lens’ and glasses I decided something was still wrong (even though two Optometrists said everything was fine). I decided to see an Ophthalmologist.

This is when I was diagnosed with Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis (GPC).

After about eight months of using different eye drops and staying away from my contacts, my poor eyes still were not healed.

That’s when he said it must be allergies.

You probably know what came next; the allergy testing.

After almost two hours with the allergy Dr. and lots of pin pricks, I had NO signs of any allergies. Not even an allergy to dust!

The Allergy Dr. was baffled. That’s when he said something that changed everything.

“You know, I’m a believer that hormones control everything when it comes to women. I bet this is a hormone issue.”

Say whaaat? That seemed crazy to me. He then proceeded to ask if my husband and I had kids. At the time the answer was no. He then shared about their fertility journey and how I needed to look into this “just in case.”

My husband and I did want kids, but weren’t actively trying. Nevertheless, I wanted to make sure I was able to. I saw my OBGYN and asked about this. He gave me one round of fertility meds (clomid).

You won’t believe what happened next….(nope, not a baby).

Halfway through my cycle with clomid, I woke up one morning and the itchy irritation was gone! What the heck! I thought it was a fluke.

A few weeks later and my eyes still felt great! I tried to wear my contacts and I could!

I went back to the eye Dr. for a follow up and after he looked at my eyes he said, “well Mrs. Manning, you’re eyes are almost healed. Let me guess, allergy shots?”

I chuckled and said, “No, fertility pills.”

His eyes got real big and he laughed a little. “Ok, really, no allergy shots?”

“Nope, just one round of fertility meds and my eyes feel millions of times better!”

Long story short, the irritation was gone temporarily but it did come back.

Side note: we did have some issues conceiving but after a Lap surgery we found out that I had pretty severe endometriosis. The surgery was a success because I was pregnant with my first born one month later.

My eye irritation did come back, but interestingly enough, was almost healed throughout both of my pregnancies.

I guess the Allergy Dr. was right when he said it could be a hormonal issue.

So now the question is, is the issue caused by a hormonal imbalance or a little dry eye or maybe a bad combination of both?

Either way, this issue is still an off and on battle with me and I’m still yet to resolve it.

From my experience I do know a few things;

  • My hormone fluctuations do affect this
  • Steroid and allergy eye drops do not help it
  • It is worse when my eyes are more dry

So there it is. I wish I had an answer or a solution to my daily battle with giant papillary conjunctivitis, but I don’t.

Maybe it’s like with Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” We all deal with something right? Maybe this is the “thorn in my flesh.” Either way it stinks.

Now my question is to you. If you are reading this then you probably have some sort of experience with it. If you have any insight or thoughts on this please let me know!

my daily battle with giant papillary conjunctivitis

If you’re still reading, thanks for listening to my battles with this terrible eye issue otherwise known as GPC.


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