Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malaria medicine. It is also sometimes used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus). Common side effects include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • stomachache
  • skin rash or darkening of the skin
  • weakness
  • hair loss

This is not a complete list. Tell your doctor if you have symptoms while taking hydroxychloroquine. Call the doctor right away if you have signs of an allergic reaction. These include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
  • hives

When people take hydroxychloroquine for many years, there is a risk of vision problems. They may even go blind. About 7 to 8 people out of 100 taking hydroxychloroquine for 5 years may have serious vision problems. With 20 years of hydroxychloroquine use, as many as 30 people in 100 may be affected. For this reason, experts want people taking hydroxychloroquine to have an eye exam during the first year of taking it. After that, people should have an eye exam every 1 to 5 years.

Most symptoms of hydroxychloroquine are mild and short-lived. Getting your eyes checked can help your doctor make sure you aren’t having any serious problems. Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms that concern you.