Some women who used Implanon, a popular contraceptive implant, have developed a severe brain injury known as pseudotumor cerebri (PTC). This life-threatening condition can cause chronic headaches, migraines, double-vision, blindness, and hearing problems.
What is Implanon?
Implanon is a contraceptive device that works by slowly releasing the hormone etonogestrel (progestin). Implanon looks like a small, flexible, matchstick-sized rod that is implanted under the skin in a woman’s arm. It is designed to prevent pregnancy for up to three years.
Implanon and Pseudotumor Cerebri (PTC)
Pseudotumor cerebri (PTC) is a disorder in which excessive amounts of cerebrospinal fluid increase pressure on the brain. The disease produces symptoms that are similar to a growing brain tumor.
Treatment for severe case of PTC typically involves implanting a surgical tube called a shunt to drain cerebrospinal fluid from the skull. Without treatment, PTC can damage the optic nerve and cause permanent blindness.
It is unknown what causes PTC, but many studies have linked certain types of birth control with dozens of cases. In 1995, birth control containing the hormone levonorgestrel was associated with 56 cases of PTC. Recently, health officials have warned that hormonal birth control is a risk-factor for PTC.
Implanon Headaches and PTC
The Prescribing Information warns that 25% of women on Implanon reported headaches during clinical trials. Migraine headaches are a known side effect of Implanon. They are also one of the more common symptoms of PTC. Headaches associated with PTC may be dull, often located at the back of the head, and tend to be worse at night or first thing in the morning. Over time, symptoms become constant.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Disorientation or problems balancing
- Blurry vision
- Papilloedema (pressure on the optic nerve)
- Hearing problems (tinnitus)
- Ringing or “whooshing” in the ears
- And more