While blood clot formation is a natural and essential process for open wounds, persistent clots in the bloodstream can be harmful or even deadly. Individuals who are at risk for unwanted blood clots may need to take blood thinners to decrease that risk.
Blood thinners such as warfarin have been shown to decrease the potential complications from unwanted clots. Newer agents that do not require laboratory monitoring have also shown to be effective.
“An unwanted blood clot can potentially cause serious damage to the body,” says Steven J. Joggerst, MD, interventional cardiologist at Saint Francis Medical Center. “The clot can travel to the brain resulting in a stroke or to the lungs which could be potentially lethal.”
Individuals who are most at risk are those who:
- Suffer from atrial fibrillation, a type of abnormal heart rhythm that can cause blood to pool in the heart
- Have a DVT (blood clot in the veins of the extremities)
- Underwent certain types of orthopedic surgery or mechanical heart valve replacement
While blood thinners do increase the risk of bleeding, the reduction in stroke or pulmonary embolism risk outweighs these side effects in most cases. When starting certain blood thinners, your blood will need to be tested to establish the correct dosage. Even after you start using the medication, you will need to follow up with your doctor and communicate any changes in diet or medications.
“Certain over-the-counter medications can interact with blood thinners, so it is important that you remain in constant communication with your doctor,” says Joggerst. “We need to keep in contact so we can make sure your body is still creating necessary blood clots, but not enough to cause problems.”
If you are taking a blood thinner, call your doctor if you experience a cut that is still bleeding after you apply pressure for 10 minutes.
For more information, call 573-331-3000.