What are blood thinners?
Blood thinners are medicines that prevent blood clots from forming. They do not break up clots that you already have. But they can stop those clots from getting bigger. It's important to treat blood clots, because clots in your blood vessels and heart can cause heart attacks, strokes, and blockages.
Who needs blood thinners?
You may need a blood thinner if you have:
- Certain heart or blood vessel diseases
- An abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation
- A heart valve replacement
- A risk of blood clots after surgery
- Congenital heart defects
What are the different types of blood thinners?
There are different types of blood thinners:
- Anticoagulants, such as heparin or warfarin (also called Coumadin), slow down your body's process of making clots.
- Antiplatelets, such as aspirin and clopidogrel, prevent blood cells called platelets from clumping together to form a clot. Antiplatelets are mainly taken by people who have had a heart attack or stroke.
How can I take blood thinners safely?
When you take a blood thinner, follow the directions carefully. Blood thinners may interact with certain foods, medicines, vitamins, and alcohol. Make sure that your health care provider knows all of the medicines and supplements you are using.
You may need regular blood tests to check how well your blood is clotting. It is important to make sure that you're taking enough medicine to prevent clots, but not so much that it causes bleeding.
What are the side effects of blood thinners?
Other possible side effects can depend on which type of blood thinner that you are taking.
Call your provider if you have any sign of serious bleeding, such as:
- Menstrual bleeding that is much heavier than normal
- Red or brown urine
- Bowel movements that are red or black
- Bleeding from the gums or nose that does not stop quickly
- Vomit that is brown or bright red
- Coughing up something red
- Severe pain, such as a headache or stomachache
- Unusual bruising
- A cut that does not stop bleeding
- A serious fall or bump on the head
- Dizziness or weakness
- Anticoagulants (Texas Heart Institute) Also in Spanish
- Anticoagulants and Drug-Food Interactions (National Jewish Health)
- Blood Thinner Pills: Your Guide to Using Them Safely (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) Also in Spanish
- What Are Anticoagulants and Antiplatelet Agents? (American Heart Association) - PDF
- Blood Thinners and Dental Care (American Academy of Oral Medicine)
- Blood Thinners: Can I Still Get Blood Clots? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Medication Interactions: Food, Supplements, and Other Drugs (American Heart Association)
- Prothrombin Time Test and INR (PT/INR) (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- Warfarin Side Effects: Watch for Interactions (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Anticoagulation (Blood Thinners) and Congenital Heart Defects (American Heart Association)
- Antiplatelet Therapy (Texas Heart Institute) Also in Spanish
- Daily Aspirin Therapy: Understand the Benefits and Risks (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Patient's Guide to Taking Warfarin (American Heart Association)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Anticoagulants (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Heparin (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Warfarin (National Institutes of Health)