Lupus Medicines - Hydroxychloroquine

What kind of medicine is hydroxychloroquine?

Some medicines can slow down your lupus. Doctors call these DMARDs. This stands for Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs. Hydroxychloroquine is a DMARD. The brand name is Plaquenil.

What does Plaquenil do?

Plaquenil relieves pain and swelling and prevents damage to joints.

How long does Plaquenil take to work?

Plaquenil works very slowly. In 1 to 3 months you should start to feel better. You may continue to get better for up to 1 year. Most people who take Plaquenil also take other medicines for pain and stiffness.

How does Plaquenil work?

Plaquenil changes the way your immune system works. In some kinds of lupus, your immune system attacks your body instead of protecting it. Plaquenil tries to quiet or slow down the immune system.

How do you take Plaquenil?

You take Plaquenil as a pill 1 or 2 times a day. Take the pills with food or milk. Your body weight will tell your doctor what dose is safe for you.

What to do if you forget to take your Plaquenil.

If you miss a dose of Plaquenil, do not make it up or double your next dose. Wait until the next scheduled time, and take your usual dose.

What do you do if Plaquenil does not work?

After several months your doctor will check your joints for swelling and see how you feel. If you still have pain with your daily activities, then you and your doctor should think about trying another medicine.

What are the side effects of Plaquenil?

The most common side effects are diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, skin rash or black spots when you look at things. Most side effects will go away when your body gets used to the medicine. Tell your doctor if you have these side effects. A lower dose may stop them. Do not lower the dose on your own. Plaquenil stays in your body for about 3 months. If you must stop it, it will take a while for the side effects to go away. You should have an eye examination every year to prevent a very rare but serious eye problem. Less than one person in 5,000 develops the problem. Only an eye doctor can see if you have a problem with your retina. Almost always the damage will go away if it is found early and the medicine stopped. You should not take this medicine if you already have problems with the retinas in your eyes. You should not take this if you have an allergy to antimalarial medications.

Read our easy-to-print PDF version of this fact sheet.

Please note: This information is intended to complement, not replace, the advice and care you receive from medical and health professionals.

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