Sunday, March 2, 2014

Plaquenil Ocular Side Effects

Plaquenil is a medication prescribed to prevent and treat certain forms of malaria. A brand name for hydroxychloroquine sulfate, Plaquenil also is prescribed for relieving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus erythematosus, both chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorders. Plaquenil can cause many side effects, particularly when taken on a long-term basis. Some of these side effects are ocular, affecting the eyes and vision.

Time Frame

Patients who will be taking Plaquenil for several months or longer need an eye examination before starting treatment and every 3 months afterward because the medication can cause retinal disorders and damage. This is most common when Plaquenil is taken at high doses for prolonged time frames, as during treatment for autoimmune conditions.


Long-term Plaquenil therapy can cause many side effects. Ocular effects can include changes in eye pigmentation, blind spots, blurred or foggy vision, decreased vision, difficulty focusing, eye blisters, eye muscle paralysis, involuntary eyeball movement and loss of vision. If vision or eye problems occur anytime during treatment, notify your doctor immediately.

Other Considerations

Patients taking Plaquenil for long-term therapy need regular blood tests because the drug can cause anemia. Regular physical exams also are necessary to check muscle strength and reflexes because Plaquenil use can lead to muscle weakness. Plaquenil causes increased sensitivity to sunlight, so patients must avoid exposure to sunlight unless wearing protective clothing and sunscreen. Other Plaquenil side effects sometimes associated with long-term therapy include acne, changes in hair and skin color, diarrhea, emotional changes, fatigue, mouth blisters, nausea, weight loss and seizures.

Malaria Treatment

Plaquenil treatment for malaria is not associated with ocular side effects. The most common side effects during this treatment are mainly gastrointestinal, including abdominal cramping, diarrhea, lack of appetite, nausea and vomiting. Patients also may experience dizziness, heart problems and headaches.


Doctors prescribe Plaquenil to prevent and treat malaria in children, but parents must never provide more than the prescribed dose, as this can be life-threatening. Plaquenil has not been shown to be safe for treatment of juvenile arthritis. Some people may not be able to safely take Plaquenil. These include people with a history of alcohol abuse, and anyone with diseases involving the bone marrow, central nervous system, digestive system, kidneys or liver.

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