Bleeding Precautions When on Anticoagulant Medication

Bleeding Precautions When on Anticoagulant Medication-What are those

Anticoagulant therapy, also called blood thinner therapy, is medicine that helps to prevent and treat blood clots. The medicine works by stopping blood clots from forming or growing. Blood clots that form in your blood vessels can be dangerous. They can break loose and travel to the heart, lungs, or brain. This increases the risk of a heart attack, stroke, or blocked lung artery (pulmonary embolism).

Anticoagulants also increase the risk of bleeding. Try to protect yourself from cuts and other injuries that can cause bleeding. It is important to take anticoagulants exactly as told by your health care provider.

Why do I need to be on anticoagulant therapy?

You may need this medicine if you are at risk of developing a blood clot. Conditions that increase your risk of a blood clot include:

  • Being born with heart disease or a heart malformation (congenital heart disease).
  • Developing heart disease.
  • Having had surgery, such as valve replacement.
  • Having had a serious accident or other type of severe injury (trauma).
  • Having certain types of cancer.
  • Having certain diseases that can increase blood clotting.
  • Having a high risk of stroke or heart attack.
  • Having atrial fibrillation (AF).

What are the common anticoagulant medicines?

There are several types of anticoagulant medicines. The most common types are:

  • Medicines that you take by mouth (oralmedicines), such as:
    • Warfarin.
    • Novel oral anticoagulants (NOACs), such as:
      • Direct thrombin inhibitors (dabigatran).
      • Factor Xa inhibitors (apixaban, edoxaban, and rivaroxaban).
  • Injections, such as:
    • Unfractionated heparin.
    • Low molecular weight heparin.

These anticoagulants work in different ways to prevent blood clots. They also have different risks and side effects.

What do I need to remember while on anticoagulant therapy?

Taking anticoagulants

  • Take your medicine at the same time every day. If you forget to take your medicine, take it as soon as you remember. Do notdouble your dosage of medicine if you miss a whole day. Take your normal dose and call your health care provider.
  • Do notstop taking your medicine unless your health care provider approves. Stopping the medicine can increase your risk of developing a blood clot.

Taking other medicines

  • Take over-the-counter and prescriptions medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Do nottake over-the-counter NSAIDs, including aspirin and ibuprofen, while you are on anticoagulant therapy. These medicines increase your risk of dangerous bleeding.
  • Get approval from your health care provider before you start taking any new medicines, vitamins, or herbal products. Some of these could interfere with your therapy.

General instructions

  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.
  • If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, talk with a health care provider about anticoagulants. Some of these medicines are not safe to take during pregnancy.
  • Tell all health care providers, including your dentist, that you are on anticoagulant therapy. It is especially important to tell providers before you have any surgery, medical procedures, or dental work done.

What precautions should I take?

  • Be very careful when using knives, scissors, or other sharp objects.
  • Use an electric razor instead of a blade.
  • Do notuse toothpicks.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Brush your teeth gently.
  • Always wear shoes outdoors and wear slippers indoors.
  • Be careful when cutting your fingernails and toenails.
  • Place bath mats in the bathroom. If possible, install handrails as well.
  • Wear gloves while you do yard work.
  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Prevent falls by removing loose rugs and extension cords from areas where you walk. Use a cane or walker if you need it.
  • Avoid constipation by:
    • Drinking enough fluid to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.
    • Eating foods that are high in fiber, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
    • Limiting foods that are high in fat and processed sugars, such as fried and sweet foods.

Do notplay contact sports or participate in other activities that have a high risk for injury.

What other precautions are important if on warfarin therapy?

If you are taking a type of anticoagulant called warfarin, make sure you:

  • Work with a diet and nutrition specialist (dietitian) to make an eating plan. Do notmake any sudden changes to your diet after you have started your eating plan.
  • Do notdrink alcohol. It can interfere with your medicine and increase your risk of an injury that causes bleeding.
  • Get regular blood tests as told by your health care provider.

What are some questions to ask my health care provider?

  • Why do I need anticoagulant therapy?
  • What is the best anticoagulant therapy for my condition?
  • How long will I need anticoagulant therapy?
  • What are the side effects of anticoagulant therapy?
  • When should I take my medicine? What should I do if I forget to take it?
  • Will I need to have regular blood tests?
  • Do I need to change my diet? Are there foods or drinks that I should avoid?
  • What activities are safe for me?
  • What should I do if I want to get pregnant?

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You miss a dose of medicine:
    • And you are not sure what to do.
    • For more than one day.
  • You have:
    • Menstrual bleeding that is heavier than normal.
    • Bloody or brown urine.
    • Easy bruising.
    • Black and tarry stool or bright red stool.
    • Side effects from your medicine.
  • You feel weak or dizzy.
  • You become pregnant.

Get help right away if:

  • You have bleeding that will not stop within 20 minutes from:
    • The nose.
    • The gums.
    • A cut on the skin.
  • You have a severe headache or stomachache.
  • You vomit or cough up blood.
  • You fall or hit your head.

Summary

  • Anticoagulant therapy, also called blood thinner therapy, is medicine that helps to prevent and treat blood clots.
  • Anticoagulants work in different ways to prevent blood clots. They also have different risks and side effects.
  • Talk with your health care provider about any precautions that you should take while on anticoagulant therapy.
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