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Depo-Provera is a birth control shot that has been linked to a case of pseudotumor cerebri (PTC). This severe brain injury can cause migraine headaches, double-vision, tinnitus, and progressive vision loss that leads to permanent blindness.

What is Depo-Provera?

Depo-Provera is a progestin-only birth control shot that contains depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA). Injections are given every three months. Like other hormonal contraceptives, Depo-Provera prevents pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation and thickening cervical mucous to prevent sperm from reaching an egg.

What is Pseudotumor Cerebri (PTC)?

Pseudotumor cerebri (PTC), also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), is characterized by increased intracranial pressure with symptoms resembling a growing tumor. It is caused by excessive levels of cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull.

Case Report Linking Depo-Provera and PTC

There is a case report linking Depo-Provera and PTC (also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension or IIH), according to a study from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health Care in the United Kingdom:

“A case report suggested a possible association between use of medroxyprogesterone acetate and idiopathic intracranial hypertension in a 23 year old woman. The woman’s only medication was depot medroxyprogesterone acetate which she had taken only one dose of 2 months prior to presenting with idiopathic intracranial hypertension. She discontinued the method and experienced total resolution of symptoms after the 4th monthly visit.”

Depo-Provera and Pseudotumor Cerebri (PTC)

Experts do not know what causes PTC. However, there are case reports linking PTC with progestin-only injectable contraceptives. The National Institute of Health (NIH) warns that birth control can increase your risk of this condition.

One of the first studies to link birth control and PTC was published in 1995. Researchers found that levonorgestrel (progestin), a hormone in many types of birth control, was associated with 56 cases of PTC in females. This may also help explain why women are more likely than men to develop PTC.

Migraine Headaches and PTC

In clinical trials, 17% of women on Depo-Provera reported headaches, including migraines. Headaches are also a symptom of pseudotumor cerebri. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, headaches from PTC tend to be dull, are often located at the back of the head, and are worst at night or early in the morning. Over time, the headaches become constant and may be accompanied by vision problems.

Symptoms

  • Headache (migraines)
  • Visual changes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Vomiting
  • Problems with balance and spacial awareness
  • Disorientation
  • Short term memory loss
  • Pins and needles or loss of sensation in the hands
  • Papilloedema (vision damage caused by pressure on the optic nerve)
  • Double-vision or blurry vision
  • Blindness
  • Hearing problems (tinnitus)
  • Ringing in the ears