Gianvi (generic Yaz) is an oral contraceptive that can cause hyperkalemia, a life-threatening medical emergency in which potassium levels are too high in the bloodstream. Without immediate treatment, Gianvi hyperkalemia can disrupt the normal heart rhythm. A sudden, severely irregular heartbeat may be unable to supply the body with blood, leading to congestive heart failure, organ damage, permanent disability, or death.

Gianvi and Hyperkalemia

Gianvi (ethinyl estradiol / drospirenone) is a hormonal contraceptive, and the generic version of Yaz birth control pills. The problem with Gianvi stems from problems with Yaz, and other birth control pills containing drospirenone. When these contraceptives were first sold, Bayer spent hundreds of millions of dollars on an advertising campaign that implied the new contraceptives were superior to older contraceptives — but they failed to include risk information. By the time women became aware that their birth control pill could cause severe injury, including hyperkalemia, many women had already been injured.

Gianvi hyperkalemia can cause severe injury, permanent disability, or death. This is because high potassium can interfere with the heart’s normal electrical activity, which can trigger an abnormal heart rhythm. When the heart does not pump rhythmically, it is unable to supply other organs and tissues with the oxygenated blood they need to survive. Hyperkalemia can cause heart failure and organ damage, leading to severe disability or death.

What is Hyperkalemia?

Hyperkalemia occurs when a person has too much potassium in their bloodstream. Potassium is an essential nutrient for healthy physiology, but only in a certain balance. Approximately 98% of the potassium is found inside cells, which include nerve cells, muscle cells, and heart muscle cells. The other 2% of the potassium circulates throughout the body in the bloodstream.

Hyperkalemia occurs when something throws off the balance of potassium in the body. Before hormonal birth control pills were invented, hyperkalemia was almost exclusively seen in people who had poor kidney function. Hyperkalemia is more common nowadays, likely because hormonal contraceptives somehow alter the way the body maintains potassium balance.

Signs & Symptoms of Gianvi Hyperkalemia

The initial symptoms of Gianvi hyperkalemia are often deceptively mild. In fact, it may have no symptoms. If the condition does have symptoms, they may resemble other conditions, which can make diagnosis difficult. There are no telltale symptoms to quickly identify hyperkalemia; it can only be conclusively diagnosed with a blood test. Further complicating matters, Gianvi hyperkalemia often afflicts young women who have no history of hyperkalemia or risk factors.

Symptoms of Gianvi hyperkalemia include:

  • Nausea
  • Slow, weak, or irregular pulse
  • Sudden collapse
  • Changes in consciousness — feeling faint, dizzy, weak, etc.
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Paralysis
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tingling, numbness, or other unusual feelings

Treatment and Prognosis

Prognosis is best when the patient goes to the hospital, is diagnosed, and treated before potassium levels reach significantly toxic levels. The goal of treatment is to reduce potassium levels in the bloodstream, and prevent death from an irregular heartbeat. One of the first steps will be hooking the patient up to an ECG, which is a machine that monitors heart rhythm and will alert a doctor if the heart is showing signs of distress. The patient will also be given intravenous medications, including insulin, calcium, and bicarbonate. These medications attempt to reduce potassium levels in two ways: encouraging cells to absorb potassium from the bloodstream, and encouraging the kidneys/intestines to expel potassium from the body.

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