Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) was originally a medication used to help prevent and treat malaria, but was later discovered to have positive effects on autoimmune conditions as well. Today, this medication is more routinely used in Canada to help control the pain and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
In general, Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is well tolerated by most patients. Like all medications however, there can be unwanted side effects. One such side effect includes retinal toxicity, which can lead to visual changes and potential vision loss. Although this is rare, vision changes can occur more quickly in patients who are taking a higher daily dose or in patients with reduced kidney or liver function. Vision changes can also occur more quickly in patients who already suffer from retinal disease or maculopathy. However, if visual changes are noticed early, they will often improve after stopping or reducing the dosage of the drug.
If your family doctor or rheumatologist prescribes Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) for you, then it is recommended that you have a detailed dilated retinal examination by your optometrists along with a centralized visual field test. This initial examination will provide a baseline from which future eye examinations can be compared to. Depending on your daily dosage, your optometrist will help set guidelines for how often your eyes need to be tested.
So What’s Covered by Alberta Health Care?
Alberta Health Care covers the cost of a dilated retinal examination and visual field test by your optometrist for all patients taking Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil).