You’ve probably heard many news reports discussing Hydroxychloroquine, or Plaquenil, as possible treatment for COVID-19. However, it is important to understand the drug and Hydroxychloroquine side effects.
As a physician with more than 30 years of experience, I feel it is important to share the facts, answer my patients’ questions and help others make sense of the varying true and false information flying at them in these uncertain times.
First, what is Hydroxychloroquine & Plaquenil?
Hydroxychloroquine is in a class of medications first used to prevent and treat malaria. Today, it is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, symptoms of lupus, childhood arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.
Plaquenil is the brand name medication for hydroxychloroquine.
Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, another oral prescription drug that was used for treatment of malaria and certain inflammatory conditions, are being studied as a therapeutic option for Covid-19 patients. In addition, many other current drugs and drugs in development are being studied in clinical trials across the globe.
A study in China reported that chloroquine had clinical and virologic benefits for Covid-19 patients versus a comparison group, and chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine are currently recommended for treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in several countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
However, the CDC makes it clear there are currently no US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs specifically for the treatment of patients with COVID-19.
If you’d like to learn more about Hydroxychloroquine and the Coronavirus, here is a CNN report on the topic.
Hydroxychloroquine side effects
There are many patients already who rely on Plaquenil for their arthritis, lupus or other disease. If you take Plaquenil or are prescribed the medication in the future, you should know the side effects. They include nausea, stomach cramps, loss of appetite, diarrhea, dizziness and headaches.
As an Ophthalmologist, I am very familiar with a potential serious side effect — eye toxicity. This toxicity affects the part of the eye called the retina and can lead to color blindness and vision loss.
An ophthalmologist can detect changes in the retina that suggest toxicity before serious damage occurs. Therefore, regular eye examinations, even when there are no symptoms, are mandatory when taking Plaquenil or a Hydroxychloroquine generic.
It is important to keep up with regular exams every few months while taking the medication to catch any potential problems early.
At Naples Vision of Beauty, Dr. Freeley can provide the eye exams you need and watch for warning signs.
We aren’t weighing in on whether you should take the drug or not and we aren’t commenting on the validity of this drug as a treatment for Covid-19. We simply wanted to share some information so you are as educated as possible and can separate fact from fiction at a time when that can be very difficult.
These are things you should discuss with your primary care doctor or your specialist. If you are concerned about the impact Plaquenil is having on your eyes, we can help.
Naples Vision of Beauty is open and accepting new patients. Your eye care is important to us. You can schedule a routine eye exam or an eye exam for Plaquenil, Glaucoma, Diabetic retinopathy or other conditions. We also do eye surgeries and treat a variety of conditions Give us a call at 239-777-6435.