Oral contraceptives have been linked to idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). Women who develop this severe brain injury may have chronic headaches, migraines, vision loss, and even blindness.
What is Yaz?
Yaz, manufactured by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, is a birth control pill that prevents pregnancy with a combination of hormones. When Yaz was introduced in 2006, it was one of the first contraceptives to contain drospirenone, a progestin, in addition to estrogen (ethinyl estradiol).
What is the problem?
There are no studies supporting a causal connection between Yaz and IIH. However, Yaz may be a risk-factor. The National Institute of Health (NIH) warns that certain medications, including birth control pills, have been associated with IIH.
One study, published in 1995, linked 56 cases of IIH with contraceptive implants containing levonorgestrel. There are also scattered case reports linking IIH with birth control injections, exogenous estrogen, and progestin-only contraceptives.
What is Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH)?
The term Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) means “high pressure inside the skull of unknown cause.” No one knows what causes IIH, but it occurs when there is too much cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull. Normally, cerebrospinal fluid acts like a shock-absorber around the brain. When there is too much, it puts pressure on the brain, nerves for the eyes, and internal structures for the ears.
Yaz and Blood Clots
Drospirenone, a hormone in Yaz, has been linked to a 75% increased risk of blood clots in recent studies. The FDA updated warnings about this risk in April 2012. Blood clots in the brain (cerebral venous thrombosis) are a known cause of “secondary intracranial hypertension,” a syndrome that occurs when blood clots physically obstruct the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the skull.
Symptoms of IIH
- Headaches: Reported in over 90% of people with IIH and about 6.7% of women on Yaz.
- Migraines: Typically severe, throbbing or pulsating pain, may be located at the back of the head, and worst in the morning or at night. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, light-sensitivity, and vision problems.
- Blindness: IIH can damage the optic nerve, decrease the field of vision, and lead to permanent blindness.
- Papilledema: Eye injury (swelling of the optic disc) caused by high pressure in the skull.
- Tinnitus: Hearing problem that causes abnormal ringing or “whooshing” in the ears.