Six things you need to know about blood thinners Six things you need to know about blood thinners

With cardiovascular disease, after surgery and even at different stages of life, this treatment can save lives. Take note!

Advisors: Ana Cristina Montenegro – Internal Medicine Physician
Paula A. Granda Carvajal – Internal Medicine Physician

Anticoagulation therapy is about extremes: it can either prevent or complicate. It can prevent a heart attack or stroke when blood clots clog arteries, and it can cause complications  when doses are taken that are not prescribed by the healthcare specialist or when they are combined with certain medications, causing hemorrhaging. “In order to reduce the risk of bleeding, patients and caregivers should keep the following in mind: take the exact same dosage that your doctor has prescribed and never change them, do not self-medicate, and always provide notice about your condition as an anticoagulated patient,” says internal medicine physician Ana Cristina Montenegro, head of the Vascular Disease Clinic of the Santa Fe Foundation in Bogota.  How is this treatment taken? What other measures should be accounted for? What is life like without blood clots? The following are six things you need to know about this therapy.

Forgetting to take blood thinners has serious consequences if you are on this medication. Being informed and knowing the risks and consequences of this treatment is what saves lives. It is important for caregivers and family to understand and agree to this.

1.It is for special situations

It thins blood. This is the most commonly known effect of these medications, as indicated for the treatment of diseases such as venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, and in cases of arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation, cardiovascular disease or in patients going through a heart valve change. “While clotting is a way to protect the body from bleeding out, blood thinners act upon the coagulation cascade and prevent thrombus from forming that can cause heart attacks,” states Paula Andrea Granda Carvajal, head of internal medicine at Pablo Tobón Uribe Hospital.

 2. Yes, there are risks

Blood thinners – a treatment that uses oral medications, or subcutaneous or intravenous injections – can increase the risk of bleeding in the event of an accident, a trauma, a cut, or if an injury occurs, increasing bleeding. However, if the patient is well-anticoagulated with the right dose, there will be less complications, preventing unwanted cardio and cerebrovascular events. Making sure the patient carries this information with them is important in the event an accident occurs. If applicable, family and caregivers should also be aware of this.

 3. Higher incidence with age

“The use of blood-thinning treatment may be necessary at any age; however, it is more common in people over age 18 and becomes increasingly common with age,” explains internal medicine physician Granda Carvajal. She adds that blood thinners are suggested for younger people in the event of an accident when there is a risk of deep vein thrombosis; and they are even recommended for pregnant women if there is a risk of thromboembolic disease.

This therapy is indicated for older adults, who are more often receive prescriptions for it. In these cases, it is important for the healthcare specialist or the treating medical team to continuously monitor the patient.

4. Be careful with other medications!

Oral blood thinners can interact with other medications. This means that they can have a different effect when they are combined with other substances such as antibiotics, anticonvulsants, painkillers or anti-inflammatories, potentially causing “over-coagulation,” as it is known in the medical field, or making the blood thinner lose its effect.

In this regard, the specialist Granda suggests that all anticoagulated patients always carry a plaque that indicates their blood type, what blood thinner they take and the reason they take them.

5. Is it a lifetime treatment?

Not necessarily. In some cases, blood thinners are prescribed for three or six months. Throughout the period for which the medication is indicated, it is important to exercise caution with blows, wounds, burns, intramuscular injections, with extreme and contact sports, and with eating certain foods, especially green leafy vegetables, as they lose their effects. Instead of eliminating them from your diet, however, the recommendation is to eat them in smaller quantities. It is important that each person consult their case with a specialist to learn more about interactions and intolerances.

6.Watch out for bleeding

During treatment with blood thinners, the patient may bleed a little from the nose or mouth, even when brushing their teeth. In these cases, Granda suggests, “Provided that the bleeding is minor or that the bruises are small, suspending the medications is not necessary. But if it is very abundant, or if it occurs every day, it is important to schedule a checkup. If there is a lot of bleeding, and it doesn’t stop, visit an urgent care center. And when dental procedures or surgeries are scheduled, you must consult your treating physician”.

Related: Hemophilia, when blood does not clot