Benign intracranial hypertension has been associated with birth control pills, such as Beyaz. Women who develop this condition may need surgery to treat debilitating headaches and progressive vision loss.
What is Beyaz?
Beyaz is a hormonal birth control pill that is manufactured by Bayer HealthCare that has been on the market since 2010. It contains a fourth-generation progestin, drospirenone, and ethinyl estradiol (estrogen). Beyaz also contains a folic acid vitamin supplement (levomefolate), which reduces the risk of birth defects just in case pregnancy occurs.
Benign Intracranial Hypertension (BIH)
Benign Intracranial Hypertension (BIH) is an older name for a disease that causes high pressure inside the skull due to excess amounts of cerebrospinal fluid. The name is no longer used because the condition is not benign — it can cause permanent blindness, severe headaches, and many other devastating complications. BIH is now known as Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH).
Does Beyaz Cause BIH?
There are no studies proving that Beyaz causes BIH. Although many risk-factors for BIH have been identified, no one knows what causes the disease. Experts warn that birth control pills are a risk-factor that may increase your chances of this disease. The concern is based on dozens of case reports associated with levonorgestrel, a hormone in Norplanon. Other case reports have linked BIH with exogenous estrogen and injections of progestin.
Secondary Intracranial Hypertension
The FDA has warned that Beyaz contains drospirenone, a progestin that is associated with up to a three-fold increased risk of blood clots compared to older progestins. In rare cases, these blood clots can travel to the brain. One potential complication is secondary intracranial hypertension, a condition that occurs when blood clots obstruct the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. This results in higher pressure inside the skull — a condition very similar to BIH.
- Migraine headache: In clinical trials of Beyaz, nearly 6% of women reported headaches or migraines. Over 90% of people with BIH report headaches. These conditions may not be related, but women on Beyaz with severe or persistent headaches should be evaluated by a doctor. Headaches from BIH typically worsen over time and can cause debilitating pain.
- Vision problems or blindness: BIH can damage the optic nerve and cause permanent visual disturbances, such as light-sensitivity, double-vision, blurry vision (diplopia), enlargement of the blind spot, and progressive loss of vision resulting in blindness. Another complication, papilledema, involves swelling of the optic disc.