Risk of Ocular Anomalies in Children Exposed In Utero to Antimalarials: A Systematic Literature Review

Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2019 Dec;71(12):1606-1610. doi: 10.1002/acr.23808.


Objective: To determine whether offspring from mothers with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), exposed in utero to antimalarials, have an increased risk of ocular anomalies during childhood versus unexposed SLE offspring.

Methods: We systematically performed searches of PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science databases for original human data on fetal and/or child ocular outcomes following exposure to antimalarials during pregnancy and/or lactation, from their inception until March 2017.

Results: A total of 10 cohort studies and 2 randomized controlled trials, ranging in size from 6 to 444 exposed infants studied, and 3 case reports met the inclusion criteria for our systematic review. Collectively, 1,477 infants were studied, 789 of which were exposed to hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine. In all, 563 exposed infants had follow-up visits after delivery (ranging from <3 months to 19 years), and 331 of these exposed infants underwent ophthalmologic examinations during the follow-up period. Our review of the literature suggests a low-to-nonexistent risk of visual abnormalities in offspring exposed to antimalarials.

Conclusion: In children exposed to appropriate doses of antimalarials antenatally, the risk of ocular toxicity appears low to nonexistent. The potential benefits and risks of antimalarials should be discussed in all SLE pregnancies, and high dosages should continue to be avoided.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antimalarials / adverse effects*
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Eye / drug effects*
  • Eye / embryology
  • Eye Abnormalities / chemically induced*
  • Eye Abnormalities / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / etiology*


  • Antimalarials