Benign intracranial hypertension (BIH), a neurological disorder characterized by increased pressure inside the skull, has been linked to hormonal birth control products. In patients with BIH, the brain is affected in a way that is similar to – but is not – a brain tumor. Symptoms of the disorder include migraine headaches, dizziness, nausea and vision loss.
What is Nexplanon?
Nexplanon is a contraceptive implant that is inserted into a woman’s arm to protect against pregnancy. The device is a progestogen-only method of birth control, as it contains a small amount of the progestogen etonogestrel and no estrogen. Nexplanon has to be implanted and removed by a trained healthcare professional, and can be left in place for up to three years.
Birth Control and Benign Intracranial Hypertension (BIH)
Benign intracranial hypertension is a condition that occurs when an excessive amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) builds up inside the skull, causing symptoms that are similar to those produced by a brain tumor. BIH may be caused by an increase in CSF production or a decrease in its absorption.
It is not clearly understood why benign intracranial hypertension occurs. However, certain medications including hormonal birth control products have been associated with the disorder. Levonorgestrel, a synthetic progestin contained in Mirena and other contraceptives, was linked to BIH in 1995.
Signs and symptoms of benign intracranial hypertension may include:
- Changes in vision
- Vision loss
- Papilledema (swelling of the optic nerve)
- Feeling dizzy or nauseated
- Neck stiffness
- Difficulty walking
- Persistent ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
Treatment for benign intracranial hypertension is focused around what is causing the disorder. If it has been determined that BIH was likely caused by Nexplanon, the patient’s doctor will likely recommend switching medications in favor of one with fewer potential side effects. However, you should never stop taking a prescription drug without talking to your doctor first.