Hydroxychloroquine is a medication used to treat several conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, some skin conditions (especially photosensitive ones) and others that involve inflammation. It was previously used in the treatment and prevention of malaria although it is no longer effective in this use as the malaria parasite has developed resistance to hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. Your doctor has prescribed hydroxychloroquine (also called Plaquenil®) to help manage your condition. It is a very safe and effective drug but, like all medicines, it can cause side effects.
Hydroxychloroquine retinopathy It is known that some people who take hydroxychloroquine for more than five years and/or in high doses are at increased risk of damage to their retina, the light sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye. This is known as retinal toxicity or retinopathy.
Overall, around seven patients out of every 100 taking hydroxychloroquine for more than five years may develop retinopathy that can be detected with specialized tests. The risk is much higher in patients who have been taking the drug for 20 years or more. In these patients between 20 and 50 out of 100 will develop retinopathy.
Severe retinopathy, especially in the central area called the macula, causes significant, irreversible sight loss. For this reason the doctors at Alamo Eye Care now offers patients taking hydroxychloroquine regular eye health checks to screen them for signs of retinopathy.
The screening tests Alamo Eye Care has to offer:
There are several tests used to screen your eyes for signs of retinopathy. They all involve different types of imaging of the retina and are noninvasive (they do not cause pain and do not risk damaging the eye in any way). At the first, or ‘baseline’ screening appointment you will have two tests:
The first is a color photograph taken of the surface of your retina, called a fundus photograph.
The second is a scan that provides a cross-sectional image of the various layers of your retina. This is called an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scan.