Blood Thinning TherapyMedication may be prescribed to reduce the formation of blood clots because blood clots cause the majority of strokes.
Substances in your blood need to stay in balance to prevent clots from developing and yet prevent excessive bleeding (hemorrhage). Terms that you may have heard are “anticoagulation therapy”, antiplatelet therapy” or “blood thinner”. Some medication acts on special cells in the blood called platelets that are involved in the clotting process. Other medication acts by interfering with clotting factors in the blood. All medication should be taken under the direction of your physician and taking the medication as directed is essential.
The main medications used to prevent stroke are the antiplatelet agents:
-Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid)
-Aggrenox (aspirin and dipyridamole)
and the anticoagulant agents - Warfarin (Coumadin), Warfilone, as well as another medication Pradaxa.
Blood Thinning Medicines
Side Effects of Blood Thinning Therapy
Using medication that reduces the formation of blood clots also puts one at risk for
bleeding more readily, however the benefits outweigh this risk. Therefore, it is important
for you to recognize and react to certain signs that may indicate a problem.
-Prolonged bleeding from cuts
-Excessive or prolonged menstrual or vaginal bleeding
-Excessive or unexplained bruising
-Bleeding of gums from brushing
-Red or rust-colored urine
-Black stools or blood in the stool
-Tiny, round, reddish or purplish spots on the skin
-Pain in the chest, abdomen, pelvis or lower back
-Unexplained swelling or discomfort
-Dizziness or weakness
-Severe or prolonged headache
-Vomiting blood or materials that looks like coffee grounds
-Unusual bruising (bruises that develop without known cause or grow in size)
Notify the doctor’s office immediately if any of these symptoms are identified.
A change in the medication may be necessary.
Suggestions to Reduce the Risk of Bleeding
-Do not take part in activities that pose a risk of injury
-Do not start, stop, or change any medicine without talking to your health care provider.
-Do not make changes in your diet such as eating large amounts of green leafy vegetables.
-Do not change your weight by dieting without first checking with your health care provider.
-Use soft-bristled toothbrush and floss gently with waxed floss
-Wear shoes indoors and outside
-Wear gloves when gardening
-Use non-slip mats in bathtub and shower
-Arrange furniture to reduce the chance of bumping into it
-Stay on a steady, well-balanced diet (Vitamin K has a major effect on coumadin)
-Tell everyone giving medical or dental care that you are taking anticoagulants and /or antiplatelet medications
-Ask your healthcare provider before stopping, starting or changing therapy with prescription drugs, over the counter drugs or herbal products
-Carry some form of medical I.D. that lists your anticoagulant/antiplatelet medications
-Limit or avoid alcohol use
-Caution or avoid using a straight razor.
What is a PT/INR Test?
If you are taking coumadin, you will have a PT/INR test done periodically. The PT
test is short for prothrombin time and INR stands for International Normalized Ratio.
This is a blood test to see how long it takes for a clot to form. Many factors can
change the way your body responds to coumadin over time, including diet, illness,
or other medications. If the PT/INR changes, the dosage of coumadin will need to be
adjusted. Without such an adjustment the medication might not be effective or could
lead to serious complications. Be aware of the results of this blood test, especially
the INR and know the therapeutic range desired by the physician. For many individuals
the desired INR is 2-3.
-Know your desired INR range by asking the health care provider. If the lab results are not appropriate be sure to communicate with the health care provider managing your warfarin (Coumadin). Consider keeping a log book to track your dosage and INR results.
-Take coumadin at the same time each day to keep the level of the medication in the blood consistent.
-Get your PT/INR drawn at a consistent time also; usually 6 to 16 hours after the warfarin (Coumadin) is taken.
The following are web sites that provide more information about managing blood thinning
A Patient’s Guide to Using Coumadin (1996). Wilmington, Delaware: DuPont Pharmaceuticals.
Drugs and medications. (2000-2011). Retrieved from http://www.drugs.com/drug_information.html
Eliopolus, C. (2004). Gerontological nursing. Philadelphia; J.B. Lippincott Co.
Medicine.net (2011).Medicines. Retrieved from www.medicinenet.com
2002 Physicians' desk reference (56th ed). (2002). New Jersey: Medical Economies.
Developed in 2003 by Barbara Hicks, RNC, MSN, The University of Toledo for the Caring~Web©
Revised: 2010, 2012