Yasmin and Hyperkalemia
Yasmin (drospirenone / ethinyl estradiol) is a once-daily combination hormonal contraceptive sold by Bayer. When Yasmin was introduced to the U.S. market in 2001, it was the first contraceptive to contain drospirenone. In the decade since Yasmin’s release, it has prospered and fallen dramatically, facing public backlash over misleading ads that failed to communicate risk information. If you were unaware that Yasmin is associated with a risk of hyperkalemia, you are not alone.
What is Hyperkalemia?
Hyperkalemia is a severe, life-threatening medical emergency, and one of the most dangerous side effects of Yasmin birth control pills. It occurs when a person has too much potassium circulating throughout their body in their bloodstream. Potassium is essential for metabolic function, and 98% of it is found inside the cells (including nerve, muscle, and heart muscle cells). The other 2% circulates in the bloodstream.
When the balance of potassium is thrown off, this can cause the heart to beat irregularly. The irregular heartbeat may be sudden and severe. If the heart cannot pump effectively, the rest of the body does not receive oxygenated blood. This can lead to multiple organ system failure, heart failure, and death.
Before the use of hormonal birth control pills became widespread, hyperkalemia was almost always caused by poor kidney function. In modern times, birth control pills are a common cause of hyperkalemia. Experts think that this is due to the effect of hormones on a woman’s metabolism. Hormones may interfere with the ability of cells to absorb potassium from the bloodstream, which causes an increased amount of potassium to circulate in the body.
Signs & Symptoms of Yasmin Hyperkalemia
Yasmin hyperkalemia does not always have symptoms. In fact, Yasmin hyperkalemia is one of the most dangerous complications of this medication, because patients tend to delay seeking treatment and doctors often do not diagnose it quickly. Hyperkalemia lacks telltale symptoms.
When Yasmin hyperkalemia does have symptoms, they typically include:
- Slow, weak, or irregular pulse
- Sudden collapse
- Changes in consciousness — feeling faint, dizzy, weak, etc.
- Slow heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Tingling, numbness, or other unusual feelings
Treatment for Yasmin Hyperkalemia
The sooner Yasmin hyperkalemia is diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis. It is a 911 emergency. The first steps of treatment will include hooking the patient up to a machine that monitors heart rhythm (an ECG), and placing an intravenous access point for the administration of medications. A doctor will monitor the ECG and watch for signs that the heart is not pumping properly. At the same time, medications such as insulin, bicarbonate, and calcium will probably be administered. These medications tell cells to absorb more potassium out of the bloodstream. The medications can also cause the kidneys and intestines to absorb and remove potassium from the body.