Birth control pills have been associated with pseudotumor cerebri (PTC).
What is Ortho Evra?
Ortho Evra is a birth control patch that prevents pregnancy by slowly releasing the hormones ethinyl estradiol (estrogen) and norelgestromin (progestin) into a woman’s bloodstream through her skin. Women on Ortho Evra are exposed to about 60% more estrogen than women on typical birth control pills, which generally increases their risk of side effects.
What is the problem?
There is growing concern that certain types of birth control could potentially increase a woman’s risk of pseudotumor cerebri (PTC), a debilitating neurological condition that increases pressure inside the skull due to abnormally high levels of cerebrospinal fluid. Many people with PTC must have surgery to drain fluid from their skull.
Unfortunately, no one knows what causes PTC and it is unclear whether it is a side effect of Ortho Evra. Studies published in the 1990s reported over 50 cases of PTC in women who were taking birth control containing levonorgestrel. Experts at the National Institute of Health (NIH) also report that birth control is a known risk-factor.
- Headaches: During clinical trials, 21% of women on Ortho Evra reported headaches, and 2.7% reported migraines. The symptoms of these conditions mimic headaches from PTC, although it is unclear whether there is a link.
- Vision loss: One of the most severe complications of PTC is papilloedema, which is damage to the optic disc due to high pressure inside the skull. It may cause double-vision, blurry vision, temporary blindness, and permanent blindness.
- Hearing changes: Some people with PTC develop tinnitus, which is a type of hearing damage that causes abnormal ringing in the ears, “whooshing” sounds, and other side effects.
- And more
Ortho Evra contains hormones that increase a woman’s risk of blood clots. These blood clots can form in veins or arteries and travel to vital organs, such as the brain, and cause a stroke. Blood clots in the brain can also physically obstruct the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. This can increase pressure in the skull, in a condition known as “secondary intracranial hypertension.” Click here to read more.