Oral contraceptives, such as Safyral, may elevate cerebrospinal fluid and cause Pseudotumor Cerebri. Without treatment to drain excess fluid, this rare but severe neurological disease can lead to chronic headaches and incurable blindness.
What is Safyral?
Safyral is a birth control pill that prevents pregnancy, but also helps prevent some birth defects if a pregnancy accidentally occurs. It contains the same combination of drospirenone (progestin) and ethinyl estradiol (estrogen) as Yasmin. Safyral also contains folic acid, a B9-vitamin supplement that helps prevent neural tube defects, like spina bifida.
What is PTC?
Although rare, intracranial hypertension is a very serious neurological disease that occurs when too much cerebrospinal fluid puts pressure on the brain and damages optic nerves. Treatment to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid may involve a spinal tap and/or surgery to place a shunt in the brain.
Complications of untreated PTC can include:
- Headaches becoming increasingly frequent
- Chronic migraines
- Temporary blurry vision
- Nausea, vomiting
- Sensitivity to light
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Progressive loss of vision
What is the problem?
No one knows what causes PTC, but birth control pills are possible risk-factors.
Evidence linking hormonal birth control with PTC has been growing since the 1990s, when a study in the New England Journal of Medicine linked 56 cases of PTC with a contraceptive implant called Norplant. Since then, individual case reports have also been linked to progestin-only injections (Depo-Provera) and estrogen.
Secondary Intracranial Hypertension
Safyral’s declining popularity as a contraceptive is largely due to studies linking drospirenone, the progestin in Safyral, with a three-fold increased risk of blood clots.
Blood clots that travel to the brain can physically obstruct the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and elevate pressure inside the skull. This complication is also called secondary intracranial hypertension.