Image: Paragard copper toxicity

Some women prefer a nonhormonal, copper IUD like Paragard because it does not have the countless side effects that its hormonal counterpart has.

Although partly true, that’s not to say that Paragard IUD does not come with some frustrations. In fact, women who have filed a Paragard lawsuit claim that the device is prone to breaking during removal. This leaves women needing more complicated medical procedures to remove the broken pieces of the IUD inside their bodies.

Aside from this known complication, however, the copper birth control device can also cause other side effects. Lately, it has even been involved in talks among women with certain medical conditions that make it harder for them to eliminate excess copper in their bodies.

In this article, we will discuss whether there really is a connection between Paragard and copper toxicity. But before that, let’s get you familiarized first with some helpful terms.

What is Copper Toxicity?

Copper toxicity can result from a buildup of too much copper by consuming contaminated food and water sources. Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Anemia
  • Burning sensation in the abdomen
  • Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Metallic taste in your mouth
  • Kidney failure

Copper is a trace mineral, which means our body needs it in very small amounts. Normally, copper is bonded to the proteins in your body. Sometimes, however, it becomes unbound or free. In which case, it can be unhealthy and toxic.

Copper toxicity can either be inherited or acquired. Inherited copper toxicity comes in the form of a rare genetic disorder called Wilson’s disease. On the other hand, acquired copper toxicity can come from consuming copper salts or copper sulfate. Copper salts can form on unused cooking items such as pots or pans.

They can also form in water pipes, potentially contaminating the water. It’s also possible to get copper toxicity from eating lots of copper-rich food or taking copper dietary supplements.

In severe cases, too much copper can be fatal. It can work its way through your organs and potentially build up in your brain, lungs, and liver.

Wilson’s Disease

Wilson’s disease is a rare inherited disorder where excessive amounts of copper accumulate in your brain, liver, and other vital organs. The copper buildup happens because this condition prevents the body from removing extra copper. The liver of a person who has Wilson’s disease does not release copper into the bile as it should.

Most patients with the disease are diagnosed between ages 5 and 35. However, the condition can affect younger and older people, too.

Signs and symptoms of Wilson’s disease include:

  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Feeling tired
  • Poor appetite
  • Speech problems
  • Difficulty walking
  • Impaired thinking ability
  • Personality changes
  • Uncontrolled movements or muscle stiffness

If left untreated, Wilson’s disease can be fatal. There is no cure for the disorder, but it is manageable. Treatment options include medications, chelation therapy, and avoiding copper-rich food.

Copper IUD and Zinc Imbalance

Our bodies are at its best when it is in a state of balance. Day in and day out, our bodies are working to maintain a delicate balance of vitamins and minerals.

Both copper and zinc are essential minerals that help sustain this balance in our bodily functions. However, just as the balance between the two significantly impacts our health, a potential imbalance between these minerals can also have a huge impact on our health.

Copper and zinc are antagonists. This means that an increase in the amount of one can lead to a decrease in the other one, and vice versa. For instance, excess zinc can lead to a copper deficiency. But the opposite, which is excess copper leading to zinc deficiency, is far more common.

Symptoms of zinc deficiency may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor wound healing
  • Eye and skin lesions
  • Feeling lethargic
  • Delayed sexual maturity
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Decreased sense of smell and taste

One known drawback of the copper IUD is that it can potentially cause zinc deficiency by off-balancing copper and zinc levels in our body. This is also the case for the birth control pill and even other hormonal birth control methods.

In fact:

According to a 2013 study that involved 121 women, there was a slight yet significant increase in copper serum levels three months after copper IUD insertion. On the other hand, zinc levels have also risen significantly. This is unexpected and needs more investigation, according to the authors.

Does Paragard cause copper toxicity?

Despite the copper intrauterine device being a nonhormonal contraception method, it can still alter some biochemical changes in our body.

As proven by the study that points to elevated copper serum levels following insertion of a copper IUD, it can affect some chemical aspects in our body. However, the elevation of copper levels in the study did not reach toxic levels.

In fact:

There is still much confusion about whether copper toxicity can result from a Paragard IUD. The limited evidence available through medical literature does not indicate that the IUD can cause copper toxicity. A 1980 study by Dr. Krishnamurthy Prema and colleagues is often cited when talking about this topic.

It found that in women who had copper IUDs for 24 months, there was no increase in copper levels. However, very few studies actually investigate this potential issue in connection with Paragard.

And while some women have complained of post-IUD insertion symptoms of copper toxicity, the scientific community stands its ground that the amount of copper from an IUD is not high enough to reach toxic levels.

However, since Paragard is mostly made of copper, it can potentially worsen Wilson’s disease. As mentioned, this is a rare disease that affects copper elimination from the body.

With that said, the copper IUD is not for everyone. Some women may not be good candidates for it, especially if they have Wilson’s disease. Aside from having this medical condition, you shouldn’t also use the copper IUD if:

  • You have unusual vaginal bleeding
  • You’ve recently had pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • You suspect you are pregnant
  • You are allergic to copper

Needless to say, before deciding on a birth control method, talk to your healthcare provider first. They can help you narrow down your contraceptive options to the ones that would fit your lifestyle and health needs.

Paragard Copper IUD Side Effects

As with any other birth control method, Paragard also has side effects that may be different for each person and can range from mild to severe. This further proves that hormone-free does not necessarily mean side-effect-free.

Some of the mild and more common side effects of Paragard are:

Paragard can also cause some rare yet serious side effects, including:

Plaintiffs who filed a Paragard IUD lawsuit were able to name the side effects listed above in their complaints. In some cases, difficulty in removing the device may lead to a full hysterectomy. Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. This procedure may be necessary for rare instances when the pieces of the IUD have already been deeply embedded in the uterus.

The Takeaway

Copper toxicity can result from genetic conditions or chronic exposure to unsafe levels of copper in food or water sources. Some women have complained about experiencing copper toxicity symptoms following IUD insertion. But the medical community says that copper levels from the IUD do not reach toxic levels.

While some studies point to elevated copper levels in the body being caused by the insertion of an IUD, there is a need for more medical evidence to establish a connection between the two.

There is limited evidence on the association between Paragard and copper toxicity as of now. However, the IUD can potentially cause other serious side effects that may warrant IUD removal.

If you or a loved one is experiencing side effects after receiving a Paragard IUD, filing a Paragard lawsuit may help you seek justice against those who harmed you. Contact us today and we will assist you with the next legal steps you should take in fighting for your rights.

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