What are blood thinners?

What are blood thinners?

Blood thinner medications prevent blood from sticking together (coagulation) which increases the amount of time it takes for your blood to clot. You might be given this medication after you have a stroke or to help you avoid another stroke or if you have a heart problem.

This guide will give you basic information about the topic to kick start your discussion with your healthcare professional about treatment options. While taking these medications, there is always some risk of serious bleeding which is why you should always get individual medical advice to receive the most appropriate treatment.

What are blood thinners and how do they work?

When you get hurt, blood cells called platelets gather at the injury site and form a blood clot. Platelets are sticky, and they form clumps creating a plug. Clotting factors are also released from platelets that help form a mesh to form the plug to close the wound.

The clotting process is essential when you’re injured. Sometimes, however, a blood clot can appear in an artery that supplies your heart or brain with oxygen-rich blood. When a clot blocks blood flow to your heart, it can cause a heart attack. If it blocks the blood flow to your brain, it can cause a stroke. The use of blood thinners in this group of patients is common. Warfarin (Coumadin) is the oldest and most widely used blood thinner and requires regular blood tests to measure how fast your blood clots using the INR (International Normalized Ratio).

Doctors have the option of prescribing a number of different types of blood thinners from two main categories of medications – Antiplatelet drugs or Anticoagulant drugs, which work at different stages of the blood clot formation process:

Antiplatelet

Antiplatelets prevent blood platelets from clumping and forming clots. These drugs act mainly on receptors and proteins that normally receive chemical signals causing cells to bind, to achieve this effect.

Anticoagulants

Anticoagulant drugs work by blocking the clotting process by targeting clotting factors such as thrombin, fibrin, and vitamin K.

Why do people take blood thinners?

Blood-thinning medications are used in patients who are at risk of developing blood clots that could block a blood vessel and disturb the flow of blood around the body. You will most likely be prescribed this medication if you have:

  • Atrial fibrillation (Afib), also known as an irregular heartbeat
  • Had a recent knee or hip replacement and are at risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism
  • A high risk of stroke, cardiovascular, or heart disease

Generally, these medical conditions can cause blood clots. You also have a greater risk of blood clots if you’re overweight, recently had surgery, or have an artificial heart valve.

What are the common side effects of blood thinners?

Anticoagulant medications can increase your risk of bleeding. The most common side effect of blood thinners include symptoms such as:

  • Nose bleeds
  • Heavier than normal menstrual bleeding
  • A cut that does not stop bleeding
  • Bruising

Some medicines can interact with blood thinners and cause serious problems. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines you take. This includes over-the-counter medicines, supplements like vitamin K, minerals, or herbal supplements.

Also read

Featured image

Blood thinners and alcohol: can they be used together?

You have probably experienced some unpleasant side effects if you’ve mixed drinking with prescription medicat...

Read more
Featured image

Comparing Xarelto alternatives: which other blood thinners can I take?

Direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) are blood thinner prescription drugs that have a rapid onset of action and requi...

Read more
Featured image

What are anticoagulants?

Anticoagulants, also described as blood thinners, are a group of drugs that reduce the ability of blood to clot. An...

Read more
Featured image

Switching from Eliquis to Xarelto

It is not uncommon to want to transition from one anticoagulant drug to another. There are many different reasons. ...

Read more
Featured image

Eliquis vs Xarelto

Eliquis and Xarelto are brand names for blood thinners used to prevent blood clots. Both are prescription drugs a...

Read more
The content on this website is intended for information purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice. The information on this website should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always speak to your doctor regarding the risks and benefits of any treatment.
NiceRx Logo

Your medication,
$49 per month

Get your brand name medication for only $49 per month through NiceRx.

Get Started