Yasmin was the first oral birth control pill to contain a controversial new ingredient: drospirenone, a new type of synthetic progestin. Since the FDA approved Yasmin in 2001, millions of women have used this medication to reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy. Unfortunately, these women may have unintentionally exposed themselves to an increased risk of blood clots, which can cause life-threatening pulmonary embolisms.
The criticism surrounding Yasmin birth control pills has been growing, especially in recent months following an FDA announcement that the agency will be updating the warning information on this medication. In late 2011, FDA-funded research regarding the safety of drospirenone concluded that the risk of blood clots was likely higher for drospirenone than for other synthetic progestins. The new Yasmin warning labels will include this new information.
Yasmin and Pulmonary Embolisms
Yasmin does not increase the risk of surface blood clots, which are relatively benign and easily filtered out of the bloodstream. Yasmin has been associated with an increased risk of deep-vein blood clots, which form in a serious medical condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT. Blood clots due to DVT usually form in the large veins in the lower legs, but they can also grow in the pelvis, thighs, arms, or anywhere else in the body. When a DVT blood clot detaches from the vein wall, it is now called an embolism. Embolisms travel until they get stuck in a blood vessel that is too small, usually located inside the lungs. When this occurs, it is called a pulmonary embolism. The entire event together (DVT, blood clot, and pulmonary embolism) is called a venous thromboembolism.
During a pulmonary embolism, one or more blood clots are stuck inside the blood vessels in the lungs. These clots cut off the supply of blood to the lungs, which starves the tissue. Within a few minutes, the tissue starts dying. Over the course of a few hours, mild pulmonary embolisms can cause lung tissue damage. If the blood clot is very large, it could cut off the blood supply to a large section of lung tissue. Then, the symptoms will be very severe, and the patient is at risk of severe lung damage, organ failure, and death.
Symptoms of a Yasmin Pulmonary Embolism
If you take a hormonal birth control pill that contains progestin, you should know the symptoms of a blood clot. One of the first signs of a venous thromboembolism may be pain, swelling, warmth, tingling, or discoloration of the lower legs or other part of the body. However, blood clots do not always show symptoms. Even when a blood clot does become a pulmonary embolism, the symptoms may be relatively benign — anxiety, mild chest pain, and dizziness, for example. Mild early symptoms is one reason why many people wait to seek treatment. Prognosis worsens if the patients delays treatment. Untreated pulmonary embolisms can quickly become life-threatening or deadly.
Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism may include:
- Feeling of general unease, anxiety
- Unexplainable shortness of breath
- Chest discomfort that becomes worse with coughing
- Changes in consciousness, light-headedness, blacking out
Treatment for a Yasmin Pulmonary Embolism
Diagnosing a pulmonary embolism is performed in a hospital, and techniques may include blood tests, CT scans, lung imaging tests, and other tests to look for signs of abnormal circulation to the lungs. After a definitive diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism, the next step is administering a medication. Heparin and warfarin are two blood-thinning medications with a long history of use in hospitals as anti-coagulants. These medications prevent existing blood clots from growing any larger, and they also reduce the chances that DVT blood clots will become embolisms. In some cases, a person who suffers a severe pulmonary embolism may be dying. In these cases, aggressive clot-busting drugs may be administered. A surgeon may also need to operate to remove the blood clot and restore circulation to the lungs.