Blood Thinning Medications
Blood thinners include antiplatelet and anticoagulant medications.
Blood-thinning medications help to prevent blood clots. Blood clots are found in blood vessels and appear as clumps of blood in a semi-solid state. They limit the amount of blood that can flow through a blood vessel and have the potential to cause serious medical complications, such as stroke, heart attack and pulmonary embolisms.
The cardiovascular specialists in Tampa General Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute prescribe blood thinners to patients at risk of having a heart attack or stroke due to the following:
- Heart or blood vessel disease
- An irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia, such as atrial fibrillation)
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- A history of heart attack or stroke
Blood thinners may also be prescribed if you have had a heart valve replacement or have been diagnosed with lupus or a congenital heart defect. Sometimes, blood thinners are prescribed for a period of time following a surgical procedure, such as knee replacement surgery.
There are two types of blood thinners, and you’ll work with your cardiovascular specialist to determine the right option depending on your medical history, the severity and location of the blood clot and your risk factors for developing blood clots. You may be prescribed:
- Antiplatelet medication – Most commonly taken orally, antiplatelet medication prevents platelets from clumping together to form clots.
- Anticoagulant medication – There are three classes of anticoagulants (heparin, vitamin K antagonists and direct oral anticoagulants). This medication works to slow down the clotting process and reduce fibrin formation.
What to Expect
The primary benefit of blood thinners is reducing your risk of heart attack or stroke, as well as helping you better manage certain health conditions, such as heart disease, lupus or blood vessel disorder. There are risks to consider since blood thinners can sometimes cause excessive bleeding. (For example, cutting yourself while chopping vegetables may cause you to bleed a lot more if you’re on blood thinners.) However, if you’re noticing unusual bleeding symptoms, talk to your doctor right away. These include:
- Bleeding gums
- Heavier-than-usual periods
- Bloody urine or stool
- Coughing or vomiting up blood
You’ll also likely be advised to limit your participation in contact sports, as blood thinners can increase your risk of internal bleeding. If you experience any sort of injury—such as falling or bumping your head—you’ll want to go to the hospital immediately, even if you’re not bleeding externally, as you may have internal bleeding that needs to be addressed.
Blood thinners can effectively prevent blood clots, and when you lean on the expertise of TGH for your cardiovascular care, you can feel good knowing your health is in the best hands. Our cardiologists and vascular specialists will take care to prescribe a blood thinner medication that is uniquely tailored to your situation and provide individualized follow-up care as appropriate.