Plaquenil, also known by the generic name hydroxychloroquine, is a medication often used to control autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis. Over time, Plaquenil can cause toxicity to the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located inside your eye. Retinal toxicity from Plaquenil is irreversible and can cause permanent vision loss if not detected early.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Optometrists recommend a baseline evaluation when patients are started on Plaquenil and annual monitoring after five years on the medication. If retinal toxicity is detected early, the medication can be discontinued to prevent vision loss.
The mechanism by which Plaquenil damages the retina is not fully understood, but it is thought that the medication can bind to the pigmented cells in the retina causing them to be dysfunctional over time. Your individual risk of retinal toxicity from Plaquenil is based upon a few factors:
How long you’ve been taking the medication
The dose of the medication
Your body weight
Concurrent use of certain medications like Tamoxifen
Having kidney or liver disease
Concurrent other types of retinal disease
Your eye doctor monitors your retina for toxicity with a variety of tests including a dilated retinal examination, specialized photography known as autofluorescence, cross-sectional imaging of the retina known as optical coherence tomography, and field of vision testing to assess retinal sensitivity.
If you take Plaquenil for any reason and you have not had your eyes examined, contact our office today!