Can Plaquenil and Aralen Cause Eye Problems?

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged the health system all over the world. There have been numerous research on COVID-19 treatment. Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) and Aralen (chloroquine) have been used as a potential treatment for coronavirus. They no longer recommend these drugs to patients with COVID-19.

Patients taking Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) and Aralen (chloroquine) should know the possible side effects of these drugs which include eye problems.

Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) and Aralen (chloroquine) are used to treat malaria. These drugs come in pill form. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and other autoimmune disorders, hydroxychloroquine is prescribed.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Plaquenil and Aralen as an emergency treatment for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in March 2020. The emergency authorization that they gave in March was revoked in June 2020 because it showed no protection against coronavirus. The FDA was also aware that the potential benefits of the drugs do not outweigh the risk of serious cardiovascular problems.

plaquenil and aralen eye problems

Is It Safe to Use Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine?

For most people, it is safe to use hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, itchiness are the side effects of these drugs.

Despite the effectiveness of most people, it can cause health complications such as retinal damage. Patients with psoriasis, heart arrhythmia, kidney disease, or liver disease should be cautious in taking these medicines because they may be at risk of complications.

Coronavirus patients that were treated with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine showed reports of abnormal heart rhythms because of the drug to drug interaction.

plaquenil and aralen eye problems

How Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine Will Damage My Retina

In patients who use hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat their autoimmune conditions, only 1% to 2% develop retinal problems in a 5-year course of treatment. They rarely have eye damage.

If you are older than 50, have a history of retinal disease, and previously took tamoxifen for breast cancer, you are prone to retinal damage when you take hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.

Since COVID-19 patients take these drugs for only 1-2 weeks, they are unlikely to develop retinal problems with the dose. Even so, it is important to know the signs of retina problems from malaria drugs because you may not notice the vision change at first.

If the damage worsens, these are the following symptoms that may occur:

  • Loss of central vision
  • Difficulty in reading
  • Weak vision
  • Distorted vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Changes in color vision

If you are taking these drugs and notice the following visual change, inform your ophthalmologist immediately.

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