Lawsuits have been filed by women who used birth control implants and developed Benign Intracranial Hypertension (BIH). This serious neurological condition causes high pressure inside the skull. If it is not diagnosed and treated, BIH can cause frequent migraine headaches and blindness.
What is Implanon?
Implanon is a birth control implant manufactured by Merck & Co. that was approved for sale in the United States in 2006. The matchstick-sized rod is inserted under the skin on the arm, where it slowly releases the hormone etonogestrel into a woman’s bloodstream. It can prevent pregnancy for up to three years.
What is the problem?
No one knows if Implanon causes BIH. However, there is a growing amount of evidence linking certain types of birth control with this side effect. There are also a growing number of lawsuits filed by women who were injured by Mirena. Many of these women allege that drug-makers are not doing enough to warn about the risk of BIH. The problem with inadequate risk information is that it can delay diagnosis of diseases, which increases the risk of long-term side effects.
Benign Intracranial Hypertension
Benign Intracranial Hypertension (BIH) is not actually harmless (benign). In fact, it causes elevated levels of cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull, which can injure the brain and damage optic nerves. BIH can also cause swelling (edema) of the optic disc at the back of the eye, in a complication known as papilledema. BIH is an outdated medical term that is now known as Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH).
Birth Control and BIH
Hormonal birth control implants have been associated with dozens of cases of BIH. At least 56 cases have been associated with Norplanon, a levonorgestrel-containing subcutaneous contraceptive implant. These cases were described in a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in 1995.
Migraine Headaches and Implanon
When Implanon was studied in clinical trials, 25% of women reported headaches or migraines. Headaches are a common side effect of hormonal birth control, and they are also reported by over 90% of people with BIH. Unfortunately, experts do not know if these conditions are related. Women who have frequent migraines or persistent headaches should talk to a doctor.
Signs & Symptoms
- Migraine headaches
- Double-vision (diplopia)
- Papilledema (swelling of the optic disc)
- High pressure inside the skull
- Blurry vision or temporary blindness
- Progressively worse and more frequent headaches
- Abnormal ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- And more