A growing number of women who were diagnosed with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) after using certain types of hormonal birth control are filing lawsuits. The problem is that IIH can cause permanent complications, such as migraine headaches and blindness.
What is Ortho Evra?
Ortho Evra is a contraceptive patch that sticks to the skin and slowly releases hormones that prevent pregnancy. The hormones in Ortho Evra include ethinyl estradiol (estrogen) and norelgestromin (progestin). According to the Prescribing Information, women on Ortho Evra are exposed to about 60% more estrogen than women on a typical birth control pill. Side effects are more likely to occur in women on high doses of hormones.
In May 2012, the British Medical Journal published a study linking the use of contraceptive patches with a 7.9-fold increased risk of blood clots compared to women who did not use hormonal contraceptives.
When blood clots travel to the brain, they can potentially cause secondary intracranial hypertension, a complication that is similar to IIH. This disorder occurs when the flow of cerebrospinal fluid is obstructed, resulting in higher pressure inside the skull.
Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH)
Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) means “high pressure inside the skull for an unknown reason.” It is caused by abnormally high levels of cerebrospinal fluid, which is a fluid that normally surrounds the brain and acts like a protective shock-absorber. The characteristic symptoms include progressively worsening headaches and vision loss.
Does Ortho Evra Cause IIH?
No one knows what causes IIH. However, it is possible that Ortho Evra is a risk-factor. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), birth control pills may increase the chances of being diagnosed with IIH. Numerous studies linking hormonal contraceptive and IIH have been published in the last two decades, including one study linking a subcutaneous contraceptive implant with 56 cases of IIH.
Vision problems are reported by over 60% of people with IIH. About 5% of cases result in some level of blindness due to permanent damage to the optic nerve. Another complication, papilledema, causes swelling of the optic disc. Common vision problems associated with IIH include double-vision, blurry vision, and light-sensitivity.
Based on data from clinical trials, headaches are expected to occur in 21% of women on Ortho Evra. Migraine headaches occur in 2.7% of patients. Headaches are also reported by over 90% of people with IIH. Although it is not clear that the conditions are related, symptoms are very similar.