Research Article

Screening for antimalarial maculopathy in rheumatology clinics.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985; 291 doi: (Published 21 September 1985) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;291:782
  1. B W Fleck,
  2. A L Bell,
  3. J D Mitchell,
  4. B J Thomson,
  5. N P Hurst,
  6. G Nuki


    Ophthalmoscopy and three tests of visual function were undertaken in 39 patients with rheumatoid arthritis receiving treatment with antimalarial drugs and in a control group of 16 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who were not receiving such treatment. Visual contrast sensitivity, macular threshold to red light, and central visual fields to red targets were not significantly different in treated patients and controls. There were no abnormalities in visual acuity, but 11 of 76 eyes of treated patients showed minor macular abnormalities on ophthalmoscopy that were not seen in control patients, suggesting that ophthalmoscopy may be the most sensitive measure of early drug toxicity. Five rheumatologists were able to identify 52 of 65 minor changes detected by an ophthalmologist. These studies, and a critical review of published reports, suggest that in clinical practice antimalarial drugs can be administered safely to patients with rheumatoid arthritis without the need for repetitive routine examination by an ophthalmologist or the use of complicated physiological tests. Recording of visual acuity in each eye and ophthalmoscopy by the prescribing doctor may be all that are required to detect early antimalarial maculopathy.