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Plaquenil use can Lead to Vision Loss if used Incorrectly

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Plaquenil, the versatile medication hailed for its original purpose of combating malaria, has evolved into a trusted ally in the battle against an array of inflammatory conditions. As a prominent member of the disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) family, Plaquenil takes center stage in reducing inflammation, easing pain, and mitigating joint damage.

Nevertheless, when embarking on the Plaquenil journey, it is vital to understand the potential effects it may have on your precious vision and ocular health.

What is Hydroxychloroquine Retinopathy?

In some cases, Plaquenil can result in a condition called hydroxychloroquine retinopathy, also called bulls-eye maculopathy. This condition creates a ring-like pattern similar to a bull's eye on the retina, which is the part of the eye responsible for sending visual signals to the brain. This can affect the macula, which is essential for clear and detailed vision.

While Hydroxychloroquine retinopathy is extremely rare, it usually occurs when the dosage for the drug is too high or you have been taking Plaquenil for more than five years. The risk also increases when the cumulative dose (the total dose taken over time) exceeds 600 grams.

If it does occur, the side effects of Plaquenil can have a devastating impact on vision.

Initially, your central vision will remain unaffected. However, a ring of disrupted vision may become noticeable with time and begin to interfere with your overall vision, eventually leading to blindness.

Because the effects of Plaquenil on vision are permanent, it is crucial to detect hydroxychloroquine retinopathy early.

Why Frequent Testing is Vital

It is generally recommended by rheumatologists that patients undergo a baseline eye exam before beginning Plaquenil treatment. Since retinal toxicity is more prone to develop after five to seven years of medication use, it is a good idea to start annual exams once you have been on the drug for five years.

Your eye doctor may suggest more frequent testing to monitor vision changes. This can include a comprehensive evaluation every 18-24 months during the initial five years and annually after that.

Guidelines for Plaquenil screenings have evolved over the years, and technological advancements have improved your doctor's ability to detect retinal changes. A comprehensive Plaquenil eye exam should now include the following:

  • Visual field test
  • OCT imaging: three-dimensional pictures of the eye
  • Multifocal ERG: an examination of the retinal cells
  • Photos

Eye Exams in Petrolia

Although Plaquenil offers significant benefits in managing inflammatory diseases such as lupus,  it’s crucial to be aware of potential side effects that can adversely impact your eyes and vision in severe and lasting ways.

That’s why regular eye exams are so crucial. If its been more than a year since your last comprehensive eye exam, call us at Petrolia Optometry to book your appointment today!