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Birth control pills have been linked to idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). This serious brain injury has been linked to certain types of birth control. Although rare, severe cases of IIH can cause permanent blindness.

What is Yasmin?

Yasmin, an oral contraceptive manufactured by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, has been on the market since 2001. It was the first birth control pill to contain drospirenone, a new type of synthetic progestin. Yasmin also contained ethinyl estradiol, a synthetic estrogen that has been on the market for decades.

Yasmin and Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH)

Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH), formerly known as pseudotumor cerebri (PTC), literally translates to “high pressure inside the skull for an unknown reason.” No one knows if Yasmin causes IIH.

However, in 1995, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study linking 56 cases of IIH with birth control implants containing levonorgestrel. Exogenous estrogen has been associated with IIH. Doctors have also reported cases relating to progestin-only injections. Health experts currently warn that birth control pills are a possible risk-factor for IIH.

Yasmin and Blood Clots

All hormonal contraceptives increase the risk of having a blood clot, but the FDA has warned that Yasmin contains drospirenone, a hormone that has been linked to a 75% higher risk of blood clots than most other birth control pills. In rare cases, blood clots that form in arteries can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.

Cerebral blood clots (cerebral venous thromboembolism) are a known cause of secondary intracranial hypertension. This disease occurs when blood clots physically obstruct the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, resulting in higher pressure inside the skull.

What is IIH?

Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) occurs when excess cerebrospinal fluid increases pressure on the brain. Normally, cerebrospinal fluid protects the brain like a shock-absorber inside the skull. When there is too much fluid, it puts pressure on the brain, optic nerve, and internal structures of the ear. Unless the pressure is relieved, this can damage the optic nerve and cause blindness.

Symptoms of IIH may include:

  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Light-sensitivity
  • Blurry vision
  • Double-vision (diplopia)
  • Enlargement of blind spot
  • Blindness
  • And more

Safety Warnings

In 2003, Bayer received a Warning Letter (PDF) from the FDA because ads for Yasmin. The FDA warned that the ads were “misleading” because they did not include sufficient risk information, which “raises significant public health and safety concerns.”