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What Is Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hydroxychloroquine sulfate is a prescription medication that is used primarily to prevent or treat malaria, although it may also be used to treat other medical conditions, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. This medication is available as an oral medication and may be taken with food or milk in order to lessen the chances of stomach upset. Some potential side effects of hydroxychloroquine sulfate may include visual disturbances, skin reactions, or a change in blood cell counts. Patients with some medical conditions, especially liver disease, may not be able to safely use this medication. Any specific questions or concerns about hydroxychloroquine sulfate or possible side effects in an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

The prevention or treatment of certain strains of malaria is the chief use for hydroxychloroquine sulfate. When used for the prevention of malaria, treatment with hydroxychloroquine sulfate usually begins one or two weeks before traveling to an area known to be infected with malaria and is continued for four weeks after leaving the area. In order to treat malaria, four doses are usually given at regular intervals during a 48-hour period.

In some cases, hydroxychloroquine sulfate is used to treat lupus. This medication is usually combined with other medications, especially corticosteroids, when taken for this purpose. When used for prolonged periods of time, this drug can have potentially toxic effects on the body, so the patient must be carefully monitored by a doctor.

Some patients with rheumatoid arthritis may be treated with hydroxychloroquine sulfate. This drug is normally used as a last resort due to the toxic side effects associated with long-term use. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are usually used as a first line of treatment. If these medications do not provide adequate relief, additional drugs may be used before attempting treatment with this medication.

Side effects of hydroxychloroquine sulfate are varied and tend to become worse the longer the medication is taken. Some of the most common side effects include visual disturbances, muscle weakness, and neurological problems. Abnormal blood count results or skin rashes may occur among some people taking this drug. More serious complications may include liver damage, seizures, or heart failure. Anyone who takes this medication for an extended period of time will be closely monitored for potential signs of toxicity, as the use of this drug may cause fatal complications in some people.

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