A growing number of women are filing lawsuits alleging that manufacturers of certain types of birth control are not warning about the risk of Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH). Long-term side effects of IIH may include chronic headaches and blindness.
What is ParaGard?
ParaGard is a long-term, hormone-free birth control implant. The T-shaped intrauterine device (IUD) contains copper, which produces a mild inflammatory effect in the uterus that is toxic to sperm. ParaGard prevents pregnancy by interfering with sperm movement and egg fertilization.
ParaGard and Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH)
Studies have not shown a causal connection between ParaGard and IIH. Although birth control is a possible risk-factor for IIH, no one knows what causes the disease — the term “idiopathic” means “unknown origin.” The disease primarily affects obese women of childbearing age, but no one knows why.
The only contraceptives that have been linked to IIH contain hormones, such as estrogen or progestin. In the early 1990s, over 50 cases of IIH were associated with levonorgestrel in a subcutaneous contraceptive implant (Norplanon). Birth control containing estrogen and progestin-only injections have also been linked to case reports of IIH.
What is IIH?
Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH), also commonly called pseudotumor cerebri (PTC), is a disorder involving symptoms of increased pressure in the skull (headache, papilledema, vision loss, etc.). It is not caused by a brain tumor, but rather elevated levels of cerebrospinal fluid.
Complications of IIH
Many people suffer from severe, disabling headaches and there is a risk of permanent blindness. Symptoms tend to worsen slowly over the course of months or years. With treatment, many patients gradually improve or stabilize, but they may never fully recover. If the optic nerve is damaged, it can cause visual field deficits or blindness.
For patients with progressive vision loss who do not respond to other treatments, surgery may be necessary. One technique involves inserting a surgical tube called a shunt to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid. This can sometimes alleviate headache, double-vision, papilledema (swelling of the optic disc), and vision loss. However, the procedure has a high risk of complications.
- Blurry vision
- Enlargement of the blind spot
- Progressive loss of vision
- Ringing or “whooshing” in the ears (tinnitus)
- And more