One side effect of Yaz (drospirenone / ethinyl estradiol) is the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE). All hormonal birth control pills increase the likelihood of developing a blood clot, but the risk with Yaz birth control pills may be up to three times higher than for other birth control pills. The FDA has recently updated the warning information to include this risk. Unfortunately, you may have been unaware of this risk of Yaz VTE before you took this drug. This is because Bayer initially advertised Yaz without providing risk information.
All women who take Yaz birth control pills can suffer a Yaz VTE. The risk is greatest for women who smoke, are over 35, overweight, or have a history of blood clots. However, even women with no risk factors have developed blood clots while taking Yaz birth control.
What is a Venous Thromboembolism (VTE)?
A Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) is a life-threatening medical condition that begins with the formation of a blood clot deep in the legs. A blood clot (also known as a venous thrombi) is comprised mostly of red blood cells, platelets, and leukocytes, all bound together by fibrin. They tend to form along the walls of veins located in the leg, in a condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). The lower leg is the most common site for DVT, but they can also form in the thigh, pelvis, and upper extremities. Around 50% of blood clots that form in the thigh break off and cause a pulmonary embolism. Approximately 25% of blood clots that begin in the lower leg get larger, or spawn more blood clots in the thigh.
The biggest risk associated with DVT is that the blood clot will break loose, travel in the bloodstream, and become trapped in the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. When the blood clots obstruct a pulmonary artery, they can severely damage the lungs and respiratory function.
Another complication is that the heart must work significantly harder to force blood into the lung when there is a blood clot in the way. If the heart is unable to generate this high blood pressure, the patient may suffer heart failure, cardiac arrest, and death.
Around 300,000 people die from a VTE every year. Of these, 15-25% die suddenly, or die within 30 days of diagnosis. When a pulmonary embolism is not diagnosed, around 30% of patients die from the condition. With adequate treatment , however, only 2-8% of people die from the condition.
Signs & Symptoms of a Yaz VTE
A small blood clot may cause no symptoms. In fact, Yaz VTE is under-diagnosed, because the symptoms are often benign or resemble non life-threatening conditions. Unfortunately, undiagnosed VTE often leads to a fatal pulmonary embolism.
When there are symptoms of a Yaz VTE, they may include:
- Swelling, redness, pain, or tenderness in the upper or lower extremities
- Increased warmth, dilated veins, ischemia (reduced blood flow to part of the body),
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid pulse
- Chest pain
- Changes in consciousness (weakness, tiredness, feeling faint, etc.)
- Loss of consciousness, sudden collapse
- Cough, which may include blood-stained sputum
- Galloping heart sounds
- Abnormal sounds (“crackles”) heard in the patient’s lungs when they inhale
- The patient may be apprehensive, nervous, anxious, feel like something serious is wrong
Treatment & Prognosis
As with most medical emergencies, prognosis for a Yaz VTE is best when the person suspects something serious is wrong, seeks treatment, is diagnosed, and receives treatment early.
The long-term prognosis for people who suffer a Yaz VTE depends on whether the condition caused permanent damage to the veins or the lungs. Unfortunately, VTE is likely to recur. It can also cause long-term complications, such as chronic high blood pressure in the lungs, or Post-Thrombotic Syndrome (PTS). People who have PTS often have pain, swelling, skin discoloration, tingling or itching, varicose veins, and ulcers in the leg, where the DVT occurred. These symptoms may significantly lower a person’s quality of life.