Anti-Coagulant drugs, also called anti-platelet drugs, anti-clotting drugs, and blood thinners, are medicines that prevent the clotting of blood. Anti-Coagulant drugs help prevent the formation of harmful clots in the blood vessels by decreasing the blood's ability to clump together. Although these drugs are sometimes called blood thinners, they do not actually thin the blood. Furthermore, this type of medicine will not dissolve clots that already have formed, although the drug stops an existing clot from worsening.
Anti-Coagulant drugs are used in a number of situations. For example, they may be given to prevent blood clots from forming after the replacement of a heart valve or to reduce the risk of a stroke or another heart attack after a first heart attack. They are also used to reduce the chance of blood clots forming during open heart surgery or bypass surgery. Low doses of these drugs may be given to prevent blood clots in patients who must stay in bed for a long time after certain kinds of surgery.
Since anticoagulants affect the blood's ability to clot, they can increase the risk of severe bleeding and heavy blood loss. Persons who take anticoagulants should see a physician regularly, particularly at the beginning of therapy. The physician will order periodic blood tests to check the blood's clotting ability. The results of these tests will help the physician determine the proper amount of medicine to be taken each day.
Time is required for normal clotting ability to return after treatment with this drug stops. During this period, patients must observe the same precautions they observe while taking the drug. The length of time needed for the blood to return to normal depends on the type of anticoagulant drug that was taken. Check with the physician who prescribed the medicine to find out how long to continue observing all precautions.
Because of the risk of heavy bleeding, anyone who takes an anticoagulant drug must take care to avoid injuries. Sports and other potentially hazardous activities should be avoided. Any falls, blows to the body or head, or other injuries should be reported to a physician, as internal bleeding may occur without any obvious symptoms. Special care should be taken in shaving and in brushing and flossing the teeth. Use only a soft toothbrush and floss very gently. Use an electric razor instead of a blade. Anyone who is taking anticoagulant should avoid drinking as alcohol can affect the working of anticoagulants.
The most common side effects are bloating or gas. These problems usually go away as the body adjusts to the drug and do not require medical treatment.
More serious side effects may occur, especially if too much of this medicine is taken which includes
- Bleeding gums
- Sores or white spots in the mouth or throat
- Unusual bruises or purplish areas * on the skin
- Unexplained nosebleeds
- Unusually heavy bleeding or oozing from wounds
- Unexpected or unusually menstrual bleeding
- Blood in the urine
- Cloudy or dark urine
- Painful or difficult urination or sudden decrease in amount of urine
- Black, tarry, or bloody stools
- Coughing up blood
- Vomiting blood or something that looks like coffee grounds
- Pain or swelling in the stomach or abdomen
- Back pain and so on.
In addition, patients taking anticoagulant drugs should check with their physicians as soon as possible if any of these side effects occur:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach pain or cramps.
Anti-Coagulants may interact with many other medicines. When this happens, the effects of one or both of the drugs may change or the risk of side effects may be greater. Anyone who takes anticoagulants should let the physician know all other (over-the-counter medicines) drugs he/she is taking -- especially aspirin, laxatives, vitamins, and antacids.
Diet also affects the way anticoagulant drugs work in the body. Eat a normal, balanced diet every day while taking this medicine. Do not make any diet changes without checking with the physician who prescribed the medicine, and let the physician know if an illness or other problem interferes with the ability to eat normally. The reason that diet is so important is that the amount of Vitamin K in the body affects how the anticoagulant drugs work. Vitamin K is found in meats, dairy products, leafy, green vegetables, and some multiple vitamins and nutritional supplements. . Do not increase or decrease the amount of foods containing vitamin K in the diet without checking with the physician who prescribed the anticoagulant.