Documenta Ophthalmologica

, Volume 132, Issue 1, pp 75–81 | Cite as

A possible early sign of hydroxychloroquine macular toxicity

  • Livia M. Brandao
  • Anja M. Palmowski-Wolfe
Clinical Case Report



Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) has a low risk of retinal toxicity which increases dramatically with a cumulative dose of >1000 g. Here we report a case of HCQ macular toxicity presentation in a young patient with a cumulative dose of 438 g.


A 15-year-old female started attending annual consultations for retinal toxicity screening in our clinic after 3 years of HCQ treatment for juvenile idiopathic dermatomyositis. She had been diagnosed at age 12 and had been on hydroxychloroquine 200 mg/day, cyclosporin 150 mg/day and vitamin D3 since. Screening consultations included: complete ophthalmologic examination, automated perimetry (AP, M Standard, Octopus 101, Haag-Streit), multifocal electroretinogram (VERIS 6.06™, FMSIII), optical coherence tomography (OCT, fast macular protocol, Cirrus SD-OCT, Carl Zeiss), fundus autofluorescence imaging (Spectralis OCT, Heidelberg Engineering Inc.) and color testing (Farnsworth-Panel-D-15).


After 5 years of treatment, AP demonstrated reduced sensibility in only one extra-foveal point in each eye (p < 0.2). Even though other exams showed no alteration and the cumulative dose was only around 353 g, consultations were increased to every 6 months. After 2-year follow-up, that is, 7 years of HCQ, a bilateral paracentral macula thinning was evident on OCT, suggestive of bull’s eye maculopathy. However, the retinal pigmented epithelium appeared intact and AP was completely normal in both eyes. Further evaluation with ganglion cell analysis (GCA = ganglion cell + inner plexiform layer, Cirrus SD-OCT, Carl Zeiss) showed a concentric thinning of this layer in the same area. Although daily and cumulative doses were still under the high toxicity risk parameters, HCQ was suspended. At a follow-up 1 year later, visual acuity was 20/16 without any further changes in OCT or on any other exam.


This may be the first case report of insidious bull’s eye maculopathy exclusively identified using OCT thickness analysis, in a patient in whom both cumulative and daily dosages were under the high-risk parameters for screening and the averages reported in studies. As ganglion cell analysis has only recently become available, further studies are needed to understand toxicity mechanisms and maybe review screening recommendations.


Hydroxychloroquine Maculopathy Multifocal electroretinogram Bull’s eye Optical coherence tomography Ganglion cell layer 



This work was financially supported by Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF NMS 1823), LHW Stiftung Liechtenstein.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors certify that they have NO affiliations with or involvement in any organization or entity with any financial interest (such as honoraria; educational grants; participation in speakers’ bureaus; membership, employment, consultancies, stock ownership or other equity interest; and expert testimony or patent-licensing arrangements) or non-financial interest (such as personal or professional relationships, affiliations, knowledge or beliefs) in the subject matter or materials discussed in this manuscript.

Ethical approval

For this type of retrospective study a prior former consent is not required. This chapter does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

The patient has consented to the submission of the case report for submission to the journal.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Eye HospitalUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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