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Blood Thinners and Blood Thinner Medications

When we cut ourselves shaving, suffer a surprise attack from our neighbor’s ankle-biting chihuahua, or hammer a finger while trying to assemble a postmodern IKEA bunk bed, our body acts fast, clotting our blood and ensuring that we don’t bleed out all over the new living-room rug. It’s just one of the ways our bodies have adapted to protect our health and, ultimately, to save our lives. But while this natural physical response is a necessary part of  normal body function, the same biological mechanisms that save us from meeting our end every time we get a paper cut can actually have adverse affects. For many people, blood clots present a serious health risk. That’s why over two million people take a blood thinner every day. So what are these drugs and what do they do? Get the skinny on blood thinners here.

Definition:

Blood thinners are agents that when used help the circulation of blood through your body. They are also known as anticoagulants or anti-platelet drugs. The drugs have many uses as there are many conditions that can be alleviated, postponed or controlled with the use of these drugs.

Some of the more common uses for Blood Thinners are to aid with the following conditions:

  • Heart Attacks
  • Congenital Heart Disease
  • Atrial Fibrillation
  • Thrombosis
  • Stroke
  • Aneurism
  • Patients undergoing Chemotherapy
  • Chronic Renal Failure (Kidney Disease)

Types:

There are quite few varieties of Blood Thinner on the market here are some of the most commonly prescribed:

Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) has a whole variety of uses. The most common ones being as an analgesic to relieve pain but another side effect of Aspirin is the use as a mild anticoagulant. It is mainly used as a preventative for people who are at risk of Heart Attacks or Strokes including TIA (mini strokes).  It should not be taken as this type of preventative without the express permission of your Doctor as it can interact negatively with other medications.

Warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven, Marevan, Lawarin, and Waran) has a couple of uses. It is used as a poison to irradiate vermin and it is also used as a strong anticoagulant. It is a natural substance that is found in many plants. It is taken orally. It is used as a preventative and treatment for people who are at risk of Thrombosis, Embolisms and Strokes.

Heparin is a natural Blood Thinner which is produced by the body and found in the lungs and liver. The pharmaceutical product is derived from cows and pigs. Heparin is administered intravenously and is generally used in hospitals for Kidney, Chemotherapy, Atrial Fibrillation, Heart Surgery, Deep Vein-Thrombosis, Pulmonary Embolism and Intensive Care Patients.

Enoxaparin (Lovenox, Clexane and Indenox ) is a form of Heparin which is injected under the skin (Subcutaneously) in as a preventative measure and treatment  against Deep Vein Thrombosis or Pulmonary Embolism. It is also used in conjunction with Aspirin as angina medication to treat and Myocardial Infarction.

Clopidogrel (Plavix) is anticoagulant that inhibits the body from reacting in a certain way. In this case it inhibits some of the receptors that that are responsible for forming platelets into clots. It is taken orally. It is used in the prevention of clots forming in Cardiovascular Diseases as well as in conjunction with Aspirin for the prevention of Thrombosis.

When Drugs Turn Dangerous

Like at-risk teenagers, your blood-thinning medication is perfectly harmless until it starts hanging out with the wrong crowd. Many over-the-counter medications and supplements can have dangerous effects when taken in conjunction with blood thinners. Some offenders to avoid include:

  • Advil
  • Aleve
  • Alka-Seltzer
  • Excedrin
  • Ex-lax
  • Garlic
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Green tea
  • Midol
  • Motrin
  • Multivitamins
  • Nuprin
  • Pamprin HB
  • Pepto Bismol
  • Sine-Off
  • Tagamet HB
  • Tylenol
  • Other medications and ingredients

Your doctor can provide you with a complete list of medications to avoid. Those who take blood thinners should also pass on foods rich in vitamin K, foods like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach and a wide array of similar foods you may remember dropping under the dinner table as a child. (Finally, a medical excuse to skip straight to dessert!) In addition, there are several other steps you can take to stay healthy and safe while on blood thinners:

  • Carefully read the instructions and take the medication as directed
  • Have frequent checkups and blood tests to monitor your health
  • Alert your doctor if you experience any side effects
  • Wear identification jewelry in case of an emergency
  • Don’t take up chainsaw juggling, knife throwing or shark wrestling
  • Avoid cemeteries and other common vampire hangouts

 

Side effects:

When taking any form of Blood Thinner you should be constantly looking out for the signs of adverse side effects. These are black or very dark stools as these can indicate internal bleeding; red or brown urine as again this can indicate internal bleeding; unusual heavy menstrual cycles; or bleeding gums. If any of these or any of the following are apparent then you should seek medical help immediately.
Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) –  breathing difficulties; vomiting; stomach irritation; nausea; and bleeding intestines. Aspirin should not be taken by patients with stomach ulcers.

Warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven, Marevan, Lawarin, and Waran) – there is a very high chance of serious adverse bleeding with this drug. If this drug is prescribed then there will also be a very strict monitoring routine including regular blood tests. Hemorrhaging is the only serious side effect with this drug. You have to cut down on eating foods that contain vitamin K whilst taking Warfarin as they do not interact well, foods to avoid are spinach, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and sprouts. You must also advise your doctor immediately if you become pregnant whilst on this drug as it can adversely affect the fetus.

Heparin – the main side effect of taking this drug is the potential for abnormal bleeding. You may also suffer from more bruises and a rash near the place of injection.

Enoxaparin (Lovenox, Clexane and Indenox) – abnormal bleeding; pain, bruising or irritation; abdominal/chest pain; headache and symptoms not unlike hay fever.

Clopidogrel (Plavix)  – abnormal bleeding; low white blood cell count.

FAQ:

What are Blood thinners?

Blood Thinners are drugs that are used to regulate the blood flow in your body by thinning the blood. They prevent and destroy blood clots that form in the body. They are generally used in the treatment of Heart Attacks; Congenital Heart Disease; Atrial Fibrillation; Thrombosis; Strokes; Aneurisms; Patients undergoing Chemotherapy; and Chronic Renal Failure (Kidney Disease).

What medication can you take if you’re on Blood Thinners?

You should not be taking any other drugs whilst being prescribed Blood Thinners without the express consent of your doctor. Most types of Blood Thinner interact adversely with one or more other types of drugs. The adverse side effects that you incur mean that must always err on the side of caution and consult your doctor before taking any action.

Blood Thinner Resources and Support

 Mybloodthinner.org. An in-depth resource for blood thinner information, this site also offers several pages for Spanish speakers.

 ClotCare Online Resource. Providing information on anti-thrombotic and anticoagulant therapy, this site is full of information on anti-clotting medications and therapies.

 Stop The Clot. The official website of the National Blood Clot Alliance, StopTheClot.org details the non-profit’s activism and research as well as providing helpful information for those with clotting conditions.

AARP Drug and Supplement Center. This section of the AARP website helps patients manage their medications and learn up-to-date news concerning their prescriptions.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/bloodthinners.html

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/drugs/antiplatelet_drugs/hic_antiplatelet_drugs.aspx