- What are anticoagulants?
- Why are they used?
- Different types or classes of anticoagulants
- List of anticoagulant side effects
- Are anticoagulants, aspirin, and antiplatelets the same type of drug?
- Who shouldn't take anticoagulants?
- Brand and generic names, and preparations (oral, injection, tablet, pill, powder)
- Drugs and herbal supplements that interact with anticoagulants
- Is it safe to take an anticoagulant if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
- Anticoagulant mechanism of action (how they work)
- Storage, preparations, and forms available in the US
What are anticoagulants?
An anticoagulant is a drug (blood thinner) that treats, prevents, and reduces the risk of blood clots-breaking off and traveling to vital organs of the body, which can lead to life threatening situations. They work by preventing blood from coagulating to form a clot in the vital organs such as the heart, lungs, and brain.
For example, a DVT or deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the leg or lower extremity) can happen if you have a medical condition that keeps you immobile or if you have been sitting for n long period of time without getting up and stretching, like traveling by plane, car, or train. If the clot breaks off from the vein or artery of a leg it can get lodged in the blood vessels of the lung where it can form a clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism). This is a life threatening medical condition. Similarly, a stroke can be caused by a clot lodged in a vessel in the brain.
Anticoagulant treatment is used to prevent the formation of new blood clots, and to treat existing clots by preventing them from growing larger in size. It also reduces the risk of embolization of blood clots to other vital organs such as the lungs and brain.
Why are they used?
An anticoagulant medicine is used in patients to prevent blood clots from forming in veins, arteries, the heart, and the brain of a patient. For example, if the clot travels to the patient's heart it can cause a heart attack or if one forms in the brain it may cause a stroke or TIA (mini-stroke, transient ischemic attack).
Examples of diseases and health conditions that require treatment with anticoagulants to reduce the risk of clots forming, or are used to prevent life-threatening problems include:
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Heart attack
- For the prevention or treatment of:
- Pulmonary embolism
- Blood clots within venous and arterial catheters
- Stent thrombosis
- Blood clots during atrial fibrillation (afib) treatment
List of anticoagulant side effects
The most common side effect of treatment with anticoagulant medicine is bleeding. Treatment with these products may cause various degrees of bleeding, including fatal bleeds.
This list of adverse effects associated with anticoagulants are compiled from adverse effects listed for various anticoagulants and may not apply to every medicine.
Common side effects include:
- Abdominal pain
- Flatulence (intestinal gas)
- Local injection site reactions
- Bruises caused by trauma (ecchymosis)
Other side effects include:
- Hair loss (alopecia)
- Itching (pruritus)
- Changes is sense of taste
- Fainting (syncope)
- Shortness of breath
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Chest pain
Serious side effects include:
- Cholesterol embolus syndrome
- Intraocular hemorrhage
- Groin hemorrhage
- Tissue necrosis
- Respiratory tract bleeding
- Hypersensitivity reaction
- Hemorrhagic stroke
- "Purple toe" syndrome
- Increased fracture risk with long-term usage
- Elevation of serum aminotransferases
Quick GuideAtrial Fibrillation: Heart Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Afib Treatment
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