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Hydroxychloroquine for Sjögren's Syndrome

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
hydroxychloroquine Plaquenil

Hydroxychloroquine is available only by prescription as a tablet taken by mouth. It is often given with other medicines.

How It Works

Hydroxychloroquine appears to slow the immune system's attack on the moisture-producing glands.

Why It Is Used

Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the body's moisture-producing glands and may eventually cause problems with the function of vital organs, such as the lungs, bladder, kidneys, and liver. It can also cause fatigue and joint pain. Hydroxychloroquine reduces immune system action.

How Well It Works

Hydroxychloroquine eases joint pain in some people.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Changes in your vision, such as blurry vision.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Headache.
  • Itching.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Abdominal cramps.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

In rare cases, hydroxychloroquine can damage the retina of the eye. Before taking an antimalarial, you will have an eye exam by an ophthalmologist. Eye damage can be caught early by self-testing your vision every month or by seeing an ophthalmologist every year.

You must take hydroxychloroquine regularly for it to help. It may take up to several weeks before you feel any results and up to 6 months before you feel the full benefit from the medicine. Be sure to take the medicine exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Moutsopoulos HM, Tzioufas AG (2012). Sjögren's syndrome. In DL Longo et al., eds., Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2770–2773. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised April 27, 2012

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