Hydroxychloroquine for Skin and Rheumatic Conditions (Hold)

Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil®) is an oral medication used for the treatment of malaria as well as several autoimmune disorders, including:

  • rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • cutaneous lupus erythematosus (LE)
  • systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • some photosensitivity disorders and other inflammatory skin conditions.

How it work (it's "mechanism of action") remains unknown, but it appears to have some photoprotective and anti-inflammatory effects on the skin.

Side Effects of Hydroxychloroquine

Hydroxychloroquine can cause of a variety of side effects, including:

Eyes: Hydroxychloroquine can cause temporary changes to the cornea that result in “halos” appearing in one's vision when looking at lights at night. Although rare, a more serious retinopathy may develop, resulting in a decrease in peripheral vision. This is more likley occur following the use of hydroxychloroquine at high doses for prolonged periods.

Blood: Anemia can occur, especially in patients with G6PD deficiency, a blood disorder. In order to prevent anemia, your may be tested for G6PD deficiency prior to starting the medication.

Skin:  Itching and a non-specific rash may occur. Rarely, a bluish-black discoloration of the skin can occur if the medication is taken for prolonged periods.

GI: Some people experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Prior to staring hydroxychloroquine, you may be required to receive an eye examination and several blood tests including a G6PD screening test, complete blood count (CBC). These eye and blood tests may be repeated regularly.

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Last updated: 1/8/2019