Lawsuits have been filed by women who took hormonal birth control pills and developed idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). This condition occurs when pressure builds up inside the skull, resulting in symptoms that mimic a brain tumor. The most serious complications of IIH is blindness.
What is Ocella?
Ocella is a hormonal contraceptive pill that has been sold in the United States since 2008. It contains a combination of hormones, including drospirenone (progestin) and ethinyl estradiol (estrogen). Ocella is the generic version of Yasmin.
Ocella and Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension
There are no clinical trials or studies proving that Ocella causes idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). In fact, the term “idiopathic” means “of unknown cause.” Even so, birth control pills are a risk-factor that could increase a woman’s chances of developing IIH, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
FDA Warning for Ocella Blood Clots
Ocella contains drospirenone, a hormone that has been associated with up to a three-fold increased risk of blood clots compared to other hormones. In 2012, the FDA updated warnings to include this risk information. One complication of blood clots in the brain, “secondary intracranial hypertension,” is similar to IIH because it causes increased pressure in the skull due to abnormal levels of cerebrospinal fluid.
Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH)
Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH), sometimes called by an older name pseudotumor cerebri (PTC), occurs when there is raised pressure inside the skull. The disorder is caused by an increase in the pressure of cerebrospinal fluid that cushions the brain and protects it from impacts.
Papilledema is optic disc swelling caused by increased intracranial pressure. The optic disc is the head of the optic nerve, located at the back of the eye (“blind spot”). It can be diagnosed using an eye exam. In some cases, papilledema may be treated with a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid.
Symptoms of IIH
- Blurry vision (may last 30 seconds and improve)
- Light-sensitivity (photophobia)
- Enlargement of the blind spot
- Ringing in the ears
- Nausea, vomiting
- And more