How Blood Thinners Work

How Blood Thinners Work

March 4, 2017 Drugs Information 0
how blood thinners work

Blood thinners are important drugs which help many people to avoid dangerous health situations, such as blood clots. There are a number of blood thinning drugs on the market today, which are generally divided into two main categories – anticoagulants, and antiplatelet drugs. The antiplatelet drugs tend to be those which can be obtained over the counter, such as aspirin. On the other hand, anticoagulants are prescription medications which will need to be recommended by a doctor. Some examples of anticoagulant blood thinners include warfarin, Xarelto, and others.

Before you begin taking any kind of blood thinning medication, you should always have the approval of your medical professional. Blood thinners come along with some inherent dangers, the biggest of which is uncontrolled bleeding. Thinner blood is going to be slower to clot, which is both a good and bad thing. It is a good thing in the sense that it will be less likely to form a dangerous blood clot within a vein, but it can be dangerous when bleeding either internally or externally. If you are on blood thinning medication and receive a cut, for example, it could take quite some time for the bleeding to stop. If that laceration were to be internal, you may bleed for some time before you realize there is a problem.

A Misleading Name

One of the first things to know about blood thinners is that they don’t actually thin your blood. While that name has become ubiquitous as a way to describe this class of medications, it is a bit misleading. Rather than thinning the blood, these drugs work by interfering with the blood’s natural ability clot. Blood thinners can lower the ability of blood to clot by between 10% and 20%, which can be enough in many cases to prevent dangerous clots from forming within the body.

As you might imagine, the two categories of blood thinners – anticoagulants and antiplatelets, work in different ways inside the body. The difference between these two is outlined below.

  • Anticoagulants. The goal of an anticoagulant blood thinner is to interfere with the normal chemical processes which take place when blood clots. By ‘getting in the way’ of this chemical reaction, these drugs can lengthen the amount of time it takes for a clot to develop.
  • Antiplatelets. On the other hand, antiplatelet medications like aspirin can prevent clots by stopping platelets from clumping together inside the veins. This method can be just as effective as the other option, depending on the specific needs of the patient.

For the average person, it is not particularly important to understand how blood thinners work on a complex level. Having a basic grasp of the factors at play will be good enough when weighing your blood thinner options, as it is wise to lean on the advice and recommendation of your doctor when selecting the right medication for your needs.

Potential Side Effects

As is often the case when taking medication, there are potential side effects which can come along with the benefits of blood thinners. While there are possible side effects with any blood thinner, it is more common to see these issues arise with the prescription anticoagulant category. Specifically, the drug Xarelto has led to a large number of side effects in many previous patients, leading to a long list of lawsuits in recent years.

Of the many side effects which are possible while on blood thinners, it is uncontrolled bleeding which should be of the greatest concern. As was mentioned above, bleeding can be worse and can last longer when you are on a blood thinner. This is seen as the biggest risk of using a blood thinner like Xarelto or one of the other options on the market. Uncontrolled bleeding is a particular concern for senior citizens, who are the group which is most likely to be placed on blood thinners in the first place. If a bleeding event reaches a serious level, it can cause permanent physical damage or even death.

One of the differences between types of blood thinning medications is the presence of an antidote for some of the drugs. When an antidote is available, the patient will have some form of recourse should a bleeding event begin. Medical professionals will be able to turn to the known antidote in an effort to slow or stop the bleeding – and that action may be the difference in life or death in some cases. However, not all blood thinners have an antidote, making some inherently riskier than others. For instance, there is no available antidote for Xarelto. A patient on Xarelto who suffers from an uncontrolled bleeding event could find themselves in serious health trouble even if they seek medical care in a timely manner. Without an antidote available, there will simply be limited options for doctors who are treating the patient.

As mentioned above, the blood thinner Xarelto – which falls into the anticoagulant category – has been the subject of many lawsuits in recent years. Xarelto was only approved for sale in the U.S. market in 2011, yet in that short time there have been a large number of cases where serious side effects led to injury or death. If yourself or a loved one has been harmed by Xarelto, you may be able to take legal action in order to seek damages for your losses. No legal action is guaranteed to lead to a financial reward, so review your options carefully before deciding how to proceed.