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Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ; Plaquenil) is used increasingly in the management of a variety of autoimmune disorders, with well established roles in dermatology and rheumatology and emerging roles in oncology. Hydroxychloroquine has demonstrated a survival benefit in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus; some clinicians advocate its use in all such patients. However, Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine (CQ) have been associated with irreversible visual loss due to retinal toxicity. Hydroxychloroquine retinal toxicity is far more common than previously considered; an overall prevalence of 7.5% was identified in patients taking HCQ for greater than 5 years, rising to almost 20% after 20 years of treatment. This review aims to provide an update on HCQ/CQ retinopathy. We summarise emerging treatment indications and evidence of efficacy in systemic disease, risk factors for retinopathy, prevalence among HCQ users, diagnostic tests, and management of HCQ retinopathy. We highlight emerging risk factors such as tamoxifen use, and new guidance on safe dosing, reversing the previous recommendation to use ideal body weight, rather than actual body weight. We summarise uncertainties and the recommendations made by existing HCQ screening programmes. Asian patients with HCQ retinopathy may demonstrate an extramacular or pericentral pattern of disease; visual field testing and retinal imaging should include a wider field for screening in this group. HCQ is generally safe and effective for the treatment of systemic disease but because of the risk of HCQ retinal toxicity, modern screening methods and ideal dosing should be implemented. Guidelines regarding optimal dosing and screening regarding HCQ need to be more widely disseminated.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





828 - 845


The Oxford Eye Hospital, West Wing, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK.