At least one case of idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) has been associated with Depo-Provera, a popular birth control injection. Women who develop IIH often suffer from chronic headaches. They may also need surgery to prevent damage to the optic nerve and permanent blindness.
What is Depo-Provera?
Depo-Provera is an injectable contraceptive is administered once every three months to prevent pregnancy. The active ingredient, medroxyprogesterone acetate, is a synthetic version of the female sex hormone progestin.
What is the problem?
Depo-Provera was associated with a case report of IIH in a 23 year-old woman:
“The woman’s only medication was depot medroxyprogesterone acetate which she had taken only one dose of 2 months prior to presenting with idiopathic intracranial hypertension. She discontinued the method and experienced total resolution of symptoms after the fourth monthly visit.”
Other hormonal contraceptives have also been linked to IIH. In a study published in 1995, at least 56 cases were associated with levonorgestrel, a progestin in some contraceptive implants. Contraceptives containing estrogen have also been linked to IIH.
Overview of Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension
The term Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) refers to a disease of unknown cause that causes high pressure inside the skull. It was previously known as pseudotumor cerebri (PTC) because doctors noticed that it caused symptoms that were similar to a growing brain tumor.
Normally, the brain and spinal cord are cushioned by a layer of cerebrospinal fluid. IIH occurs when levels of this fluid increase, putting pressure on the brain and optic nerve.
Signs & symptoms may include:
- Migraine headaches
- Sensitivity to light
- Ringing or pulsing sounds in the ears (tinnitus)
- Double-vision (symptom of pressure on the 6th cranial nerve)
- Temporary vision blurring, dimming, or blindness
- Enlarged blind spot
- Loss of field of vision
- Nausea, vomiting
- And more