Healthy Living

Why People with Rheumatoid Arthritis May Experience Eye Problems

Taking hydroxychloroquine for RA can put you at higher risk of developing vision problems

Many people with rheumatoid arthritis take hydroxychloroquine, or Plaquenil. It is an antimalarial drug, but is also approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis symptoms from pain and swelling to joint tenderness. It is also capable of increasing a person's physical abilities, and even lowers the frequency at which they will experience flares of their RA.

Despite the positive attributes of the drug, vision problems are a potential side effect - especially when a patient has been taking it either for a long time, or with high dosages.

A study showed that 7.5% of people who had been taking the medication for a minimum of five years at high dosages experienced retina damage. However, only 2% of those who were taking low doses experienced the same effect in the first ten years of use. After 20 years, around 20% displayed retina damage. There have been other studies on the topic, but they did not display such high results. Regardless, multiple studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine can cause significant harm to vision. Therefore, it is recommended to take an initial vision test when you begin the drug, so you can monitor how it is affecting your eyesight, and can make changes if necessary.