Women who used ParaGard, a non-hormonal birth control implant, have developed a brain injury known as pseudotumor cerebri (PTC). Without treatment, severe cases of PTC can cause blindness.
What is ParaGard?
ParaGard is an intrauterine device (IUD) that is implanted into a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. It is one of the longest-acting contraceptives, more than 99% effective for up to 10 years. ParaGard is a T-shaped device that is made mostly of copper and plastic. The copper interferes with fertilization.
What is the problem?
Paragard has not been associated with pseudotumor cerebri (PTC) in any clinical trials or recent studies. It is unknown if PTC is more likely to occur in women who use Paragard. Experts do not know what causes PTC.
Another birth control implant, Mirena, contains a hormone called levonorgestrel that was associated with dozens of cases of PTC in studies dating back to the 1990s.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) warns that there are many risk-factors for PTC. These include birth control pills, obesity, kidney disease, certain medications, and diseases. PTC is also more common in women than men.
What is Pseudotumor Cerebri (PTC)?
Pseudotumor cerebri (PTC) is a type of brain injury that occurs when there is too much cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull. This puts pressure on the brain and optic nerve. PTC is also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH).
One of the most common symptoms of PTC is chronic headaches and/or migraines. They occur because PTC puts pressure on the brain, producing effects that are similar to a growing brain tumor. The typical symptoms of headaches from PTC include:
- Dull pain
- Pain located at the back of the head
- Pain that is worst in the early morning or at night
- Progressively more frequent headaches
- Constant headaches
- Problems balancing
- Nausea, vomiting
Severe cases of PTC can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve and cause irreversible blindness. This may lead to a complication known as papilloedema, or pressure on the optic disc (located at the head of the optic nerve where the “blind spot” is in the back of the eye).
Symptoms of vision problems from PTC:
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Temporary blindness
- Progressive loss of vision
- Permanent blindness