Bayer is facing hundreds of Mirena lawsuits alleging that the synthetic progestin hormone causes serious side effects, including Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension and Pseudotumor Cerebri (PTC). These conditions cause high pressure in the brain, with symptoms similar to a brain tumor.
What is Pseudotumor Cerebri?
Pseudotumor cerebri (PTC) (which means “false brain tumor”) is a medical condition that increases pressure on the brain due to excessive levels of cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull. This condition produces effects that are similar to a growing brain tumor, often causing severe headaches. PTC is also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) or benign intracranial hypertension (BIH)
Pseudotumor Cerebri Linked to Birth Control
In 1995, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study linking 56 cases of intracranial hypertension (also known as pseudotumor cerebri) and optic disc edema with birth control pills and contraceptive implants containing the hormone levonorgestrel, such as Mirena. Other studies and case reports have linked PTC with exogenous estrogen, progestin-only contraceptive implants, and birth control injections.
Blood Clots and Intracranial Hypertension
Nearly all birth control pills increase a woman’s risk of blood clots, but pills containing drospirenone (Yaz, Yasmin, etc.) increase this risk even further. When blood clots enter the brain, they can physically obstruct the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and cause secondary intracranial hypertension.
Blindness & Eye Injury
PTC can cause blindness and severe eye injuries because it puts pressure on the optic nerve, which transmits visual information between the eyes and the brain. This condition, also known as papilloedema, is caused by swelling of the optic disc. Unfortunately, damage to the optic nerve is permanent.
Diagnosis of PTC
The only definitive way to diagnose PTC is with a lumbar puncture (spinal tap), which measures the pressure of cerebrospinal fluid. During the procedure, a needle is inserted between two bones in the lower part of the spine to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid. In some cases, swelling of the optic nerve can also be observed in an eye exam.
Treatment for PTC
The primary goal of treatment is to reduce pressure on the brain and prevent blindness. Patients without vision loss are most often treated with medications. In patients with severe symptoms, doctors may recommend brain surgery to drain excess fluid from the skull with a tube-like device called a shunt.
Symptoms of Pseudotumor Cerebri
- Pulsating sounds inside the head
- Ringing or “whooshing” in the ears
- Blurry vision, double vision, blind spots
- Problems walking