Ocella birth control pills (generic Yasmin) contain drospirenone, a new type of synthetic hormone that has been linked to an increased risk of blood clots. In some cases, these blood clots travel to the lungs and get stuck in small blood vessels, causing a pulmonary embolism.
Do you use Ocella birth control pills? These oral hormonal contraceptives contain 3 milligrams of drospirenone, the same amount that is in Yasmin birth control pills. Ocella is the generic equivalent of Yasmin, and both medications have the same benefits, risks, and side effects.
If you use or formerly used Ocella, you may have heard about a recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement. After more than a decade of research and evidence linking drospirenone to a higher risk of blood clots, the FDA just announced in April 2012 that they will be updating the labels on all birth control pills containing drospirenone, including Ocella. The new labels will warn that drospirenone has been linked to an increased risk of blood clots, which can cause death.
Ocella and Pulmonary Embolisms
Some studies have linked drospirenone to a three-fold increased risk of blood clots compared to other birth control pills. These blood clots almost always form in a syndrome known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), in which blood clots develop in veins deep inside the lower legs, arms, pelvis, or other part of the body. If these blood clots grow large enough, they may break away from the vein wall where they formed, float in the bloodstream, travel to the heart, and be pumped into the lungs. Inside the lungs, blood vessels get very small, and the blood clot gets stuck.
A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel inside the lungs. It is usually caused by a blood clot that formed in the lower legs and traveled to the lungs. Once this blood clot is trapped in a blood vessel, it cuts off the blood supply to lung tissue. The lung tissue begins dying within minutes, and if untreated, there is a high risk that a person will suffer organ failure and death. Around 60,000 people die from a pulmonary embolism every year.
Symptoms of an Ocella Pulmonary Embolism
Ocella pulmonary embolisms are usually caused by a blood clot in the lower legs (DVT). The symptoms of DVT may or may not precede a pulmonary embolism. DVT does not always have symptoms, but when it does, they usually develop over several hours or days. Gradually, one leg becomes swollen, discolored, painful, and warm to the touch. DVT can also occur in other parts of the body.
When a DVT blood clot reaches the lungs, a pulmonary embolism begins. The onset of symptoms is usually quite sudden. These may include:
- Sudden, unexplained shortness of breath
- Chest pain or discomfort that grows worse with coughing, deep breathing, or movement
- Coughing up blood
- Changes in consciousness, feeling light-headed or dizzy, fainting
- General feeling of anxiety or unease
- Rapid breathing
- Fast heart-rate
- General feeling of unease
Treatment of an Ocella Pulmonary Embolism
After an Ocella pulmonary embolism is diagnosed, the primary goal of treatment is to prevent the clots in the lungs from getting bigger, and decease the risk that more blood clots will reach the lungs. This is almost always accomplished with blood-thinning medications. This may include oral administration of warfarin, or an intravenous administration of heparin.
Some people need more aggressive emergency treatment. This may include the administration of a “clot-busting” drug (also called a thrombolytic), which is very effective at dissolving blood clots but has a high risk of internal bleeding. If a patient is dying of a pulmonary embolism, a doctor may be forced to perform surgery to remove the blood clot in the lungs. In some cases, minimally-invasive catheter techniques may be used to administer a medication directly at the site or the clot, or help remove the clot.