There are two main types of blood thinners: Anticoagulants, which work with chemical reactions in your body to slow down clot formations, and anti-platelet drugs, which prevent blood cells from clumping together to form a clot. The Mayo Clinic suggests that most heart attacks and strokes are caused by unusual clotting within the arteries. This clotting prevents necessary blood flow to the brain, while making the heart pump faster and harder until it gives out.
Anticoagulants are the medicines most commonly used to break up and prevent such clotting during strokes and heart attacks. Thrombolytic medicines, also called "clot busters," are also used to dissolve blood clots that are blocking the coronary arteries.
Unfortunately, although these medicines are common and extremely good at preventing stroke and heart attack fatalities, if not handled correctly or properly monitored—they can cause serious bleeding issues.
Blood Clotting Effects
One of the many functions of your platelets and plasma, is to reduce excess bleeding by forming clots over injured tissues and blood vessels. Proteins within your plasma mix with your blood’s platelets and then solidify in order to keep your blood contained, instead of escaping through an injured area. However, blood thinners and anticoagulants are designed to halt this process in order to keep your arteries clear of clots.
Unfortunately, these medications can’t pick and choose which blood flow to control, or contain their effects solely to the blood within your arteries. This ultimately poses severely dangerous effects upon your entire bloodstream. If you’re wounded, sustain internal injuries, or if unknown bleeding occurs, you could be in serious trouble. Instead of your body reacting to stop the bleed, it will allow the flow to continue, possibly leading to excessive blood loss.
Alarming Symptoms When Taking Blood Thinners
When taking blood thinners or anticoagulants, make sure you stay alert and keep a watchful eye out for these symptoms of internal bleeding problems:
- Black or tarry-appearing stools. Dark stools can be an indication that blood is present. This could mean that your intestines or stomach are pooling with blood.
- Orange, pink, or smoke-colored urine. Discolored urine could be a sign of bleeding in the kidneys or bladder.
- Abnormal and sometimes profuse bleeding. Since blood thinners are meant to prevent clotting, they also affect how the blood clots outside the body. This could result in even small cuts bleeding for long periods of time—putting you at risk of losing too much blood.
- Excessive bruising. Since bruises are basically broken blood vessels underneath the skin, excessive bruising can be an indication that your blood thinners are causing your blood vessels to leak and swell.
- Blood shot eyes. Your eyes have hundreds of tiny blood vessels that can become swollen or irritated by thinned blood. These vessels can also pop with increased blood pressure and be an indication of swelling or bleeding in the brain.
- Stomach pain. Bleeding within your stomach lining due to ulcers, polyps, or irritations can cause extreme nausea and cramping.
- Muscle aches. When your muscles don’t receive enough oxygen from fast moving and sometimes decreased blood flow, the tissues start to break down causing aches and pains.
- Intense headaches. Swelling, bruising, and bleeding in the brain can cause intense pressure headaches.
- Dizziness. The decreased amount of oxygen as a result of blood pooling in other areas of the body, can cause hypoxic effects on your brain and muscles, making you feel dizzy and weak.
If you experience any of the above symptoms after starting a new blood thinning medication, seek medical attention immediately. Your body needs your blood in the right places at the right times in order to function properly. You have the right to make sure you’re in good health, especially if you’re at risk for a heart attack or stroke. You also have the right to know your risks before taking new medication, and to fight back when your prescribed medication causes you harm.
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