Attorneys are filing lawsuits on behalf of women who used certain types of birth control and developed Benign Intracranial Hypertension (BIH). This painful condition causes high pressure inside the skull that can cause blindness. Over 90% of people with the disease also suffer from headaches.
What is Yaz?
Yaz, one of the most popular birth control pills of all time, owes much of its success to a marketing campaign that promoted it as superior to other contraceptives. Yaz was one of the first contraceptives to contain drospirenone, a synthetic version of the hormone progestin, in addition to ethinyl estradiol (estrogen).
What is the problem?
No one knows what causes Benign Intracranial Hypertension (BIH), but they do know it is not a “benign” (harmless) condition — complications can include excruciatingly painful headaches and permanent blindness. This is why BIH is now known as Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH).
Birth control pills, such as Yaz, may be a risk-factor for BIH. Since the early 1990s, researchers have identified dozens of case reports linking BIH with contraceptives, including estrogen and progestin-only injections (birth control shots). One study found 56 cases of BIH in young women on Norplanon (levonorgestrel implant).
Blood Clots and Secondary Intracranial Hypertension
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Yaz in 2006. Within just a few years, Yaz was the most popular birth control pill in the United States. The success was short-lived after researchers discovered that drospirenone, an active ingredient in Yaz, could triple a woman’s risk of developing blood clots compared to older-generation birth control pills.
Blood clots that travel to the brain can potentially cause secondary intracranial hypertension, a condition that is very similar to BIH. Both conditions cause the same physical symptoms of raised intracranial pressure and can become chronic. The main difference is that secondary intracranial hypertension has a known cause, such as blood clots physically obstructing the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the skull.
- Migraine headaches: High pressure inside the skull can cause excruciatingly painful headaches (migraines). Unless pressure is reduced, headaches can become progressively more constant. In clinical trials of Yaz, 6.7% of women reported headaches.
- Blindness: Vision problems (blurry vision, double-vision, etc.) are reported by most people with BIH. Over time, pressure in the skull can damage the optic nerve and cause blindness. Some people also develop papilledema, or swelling of the optic disc in the back of the eye.