Overview Of Anticoagulants

Anticoagulants increase the time needed for an individual's blood to clot. This is why they are also referred to as blood thinners. They treat blood clots that have formed, and are also given to reduce the risk of blood clots in patients with certain underlying health issues. There are several types of anticoagulants. Examples include factor Xa inhibitors, direct thrombin inhibitors, coumarins, indandiones, and heparins. 

Patients often take this type of medication as a treatment for atrial fibrillation. Some of these drugs also act as an unstable angina treatment. Patients who have had blood clots before also take them as a blood clot treatment and prevention method. These medications are great as a heart attack or stroke treatment, since they can prevent future ones. Many individuals also take an over-the-counter anticoagulant to treat similar issues and relieve pain. However, patients must first understand their options for anticoagulants.

Warfarin 

Dreamstime

Warfarin is taken orally. It needs to be taken at the same time each day. However, it is not safe to use this medication before surgery, spinal taps, or epidurals. Patients with blood cell disorders, aneurysms, stomach ulcers, or heart infections should not take this medicine either. In addition, patients should review their medical history with their doctor before adding warfarin. Points of note include diabetes, congestive heart failure, clotting deficiencies, kidney disease, or low platelets. 

Patients should not drink alcohol during treatment with warfarin. They also should avoid drinking grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, and pomegranate juice. Foods with high levels of vitamin K, including leafy green vegetables, can make warfarin less effective. This medication interacts with vitamin K supplements, coenzyme Q10, St. John's wort, and certain antibiotics and antifungals. 

Heparin 

Dreamstime

Heparin stops the blood from clotting. It is often used before surgical procedures to reduce the patient's risk of developing clots. However, patients with pork allergies or previous uncontrolled bleeding episodes will need a different medicine. In addition, individuals who have experienced low platelets after previously using heparin or pentosan sulfate should not take this drug. Patients must review their medical history with their doctor before they can take this medication. This includes informing their doctor if they have ever had liver disease, severe hypertension, bacterial endocarditis, or stomach problems. 

Heparin is given by injection. After a doctor administers the first dose, the patient will be taught to self-administer them. Frequent blood tests are necessary to measure the time it takes for the patient's blood to clot. Emergency medical attention will be required if patients experience chest pain, skin warmth or discoloration, nosebleeds, nausea, or vomiting on this medication.

Edoxaban 

Dreamstime

Edoxaban helps reduce the risk of strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation not caused by heart valve problems. Before starting treatment with this medication, patients must have their kidney function checked. Individuals who have poor kidney function cannot safely use this drug. This is an oral medication. Patients can take it with or without food. A frequent side effect of this medicine is anemia. Potential symptoms of this include cold hands and feet, pale skin, fatigue, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath. 

Like other anticoagulants, edoxaban increases the risk of bleeding. Patients taking it should be careful when brushing their teeth or shaving. They should let their doctor know right away if they develop headaches, dizziness or weakness while taking this medication. Nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or signs of blood in the urine or stool will all need urgent attention. This medication can interact with a few others. Examples include antidepressants, anti-inflammatory medicines, and other anticoagulants. 

Rivaroxaban 

Dreamstime

Patients with peripheral artery disease or coronary artery disease may be advised to take rivaroxaban. This medication reduces the likelihood of having a stroke or heart attack. In these situations, patients will take this medication with acetylsalicylic acid. Rivaroxaban is available as a tablet. Patients with certain conditions may need to take their tablets with food. Before using this drug, patients should tell their doctor if they have ever had liver or kidney disease. Their doctor will also ask if they have an artificial heart valve. Like other blood thinners, rivaroxaban can cause easy bleeding. This is especially common in individuals who have bleeding disorders, uncontrolled high blood pressure, or stomach bleeding. Easy bleeding is more likely to occur in patients who use this medication with some other anticoagulants, antiplatelets, or antidepressants. 

During treatment with this medication, patients may develop heavy menstrual periods. They may also experience nosebleeds, bleeding gums, and blood in their urine or stool. Rarely, a spinal blood clot may form. However, this requires emergency hospitalization. In addition, patients need emergency care if they suddenly lose control of their bladder or bowels or if they notice a sensation of numbness in their lower body. These issues could be signs that a dangerous blood clot has formed in the spine. 

Apixaban 

Dreamstime

Apixaban is frequently given to prevent blood clots after hip and knee replacement operations. However, the doctor needs to know if the patient has ever had any problems with their liver or kidneys first. This helps them make sure this medication is safe. Apixaban may need to be used with caution in individuals over eighty years old and in those who weigh less than 132 pounds. Unfortunately, potential side effects include headaches, dizziness, easy bruising, and weakness. Unusual bleeding from the nose or mouth may also occur, and the urine may be red, pink, or brown. Menstrual periods may be very heavy as well. 

In rare cases, individuals may develop a spinal blood clot during their treatment with this medication. This is especially the case if they are having a spinal tap or an epidural. Of course, this medication has several potential drug interactions. Thus, patients must review their current medications with a doctor first. Some potential drug interactions include antidepressants, anti-inflammatories, and other anticoagulants.

MORE FROM HEALTHPREP