Hormonal birth control products have been linked to serious side effects, some of which can be fatal. A number of women have reported developing pseudotumor cerebri (PTC), a severe neurological condition that occurs when pressure builds up in the brain. Signs and symptoms of PTC include headaches, ringing in the ears, blurred or double vision, and papilledema (swelling of the optic nerve).
What is NuvaRing?
NuvaRing is a once-a-month birth control device that was originally manufactured by the Dutch company Organon. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001. After a number of mergers, Organon was acquired by Schering-Plough, a company now called Merck. Organon and Merck marketed NuvaRing as “month-long protection against pregnancy, so women who use NuvaRing don’t have to think about contraception every day.”
Pseudotumor Cerebri (PTC)
The human brain contains four interconnected ventricles. Cerebrospinal fluid flows through these ventricles and is eventually absorbed into the bloodstream. In order to maintain the correct pressure inside the skull (intracranial pressure), the flow of cerebrospinal fluid must be kept in balance.
In patients with pseudotumor cerebri, intracranial pressure builds up, causing severe headaches, vision problems and ringing in the ears. Most patients are initially diagnosed as having a brain tumor before their doctor recognizes the problem as PTC.
Signs and symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri 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)
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, most patients with pseudotumor cerebri are eligible for the following surgical procedures:
- Ventricular shunt – Cerebrospinal fluid is drained from the brain into the peritoneal cavity, stomach or heart.
- Lumbar shunt – Fluid drained from the spine into the peritoneal cavity or stomach.
- Optic nerve sheath fenestration – Opening is made in the covering of the optic nerve to release CSF and relieve pressure on the nerve.