Antiplatelet Therapy

Antiplatelets are a group of medicines that stop blood cells (called platelets) from sticking to each other and forming a blood clot.

Whenever there is an injury to the body, platelets are sent to the site of the injury, where they clump together to form a blood clot. This stops the bleeding. If you have a cut or a wound, this is a good thing. But, sometimes, platelets will clump together inside a blood vessel that is injured, swollen (inflamed), or that has plaque build-up (atherosclerosis). When this happens, the platelets can cause a blood clot to form inside the vessel. Platelets can also cause blood clots to form around stents, artificial heart valves, and other devices that are placed inside the heart or blood vessels. Antiplatelet medicines can stop blood clots from forming.

Patients are usually given antiplatelets if they have a history of:
  • • Coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • • Heart attack
  • • Angina
  • • Stroke or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)
  • • Peripheral vascular disease (PVD)

Antiplatelets may also be given to patients during and after angioplasty, stent procedures, and after coronary artery bypass surgery. Some patients with atrial fibrillation, valve disease, or peripheral vascular disease (PVD) also take antiplatelets.

While taking antiplatelets, avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. Also, tell your doctor or dentist that you are taking antiplatelet medicines before any surgical or dental procedure. Because antiplatelets reduce the blood's ability to clot, taking them before surgical or dental procedures can lead to excess bleeding. You might need to stop taking medicine for 5 to 7 days before dental work or surgery; however, do not stop taking this medicine without consulting a doctor first.

Talk with your doctor about your medical history before beginning antiplatelet therapy. The risks of taking the medicine should be weighed against its benefits. Consider the following factors when deciding whether you should begin antiplatelet therapy:

  • • Allergies to antiplatelet medicines, ibuprofen, or naproxen
  • • Considering becoming pregnant, you are pregnant, or you are breast-feeding your baby
  • • Hemophilia
  • • Hodgkin's disease
  • • Stomach ulcer, a bleeding ulcer, or other stomach problems
  • • Kidney or liver disease
  • • Coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure
  • • High blood pressure
  • • Asthma
  • • Gout
  • • Anemic (low red blood cell count in the blood)
  • • Nasal polyps
  • • Taking part in sports or other activities that put you at risk for bleeding or bruising

Side effects Sometimes medicine causes unwanted effects. Not all side effects for antiplatelet therapy are listed here. If you feel these or any other effects, consult your doctor.

Common side effects:
  • • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • • Heartburn
  • • Headache
  • • Upset stomach and nausea
  • • Stomach pain
  • • Diarrhea
  • • Nosebleed

Rare side effects:
  • • Allergic reaction, with swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, hands, feet, or ankles
  • • Skin rash, itching, or hives
  • • Throwing up, especially if vomit contains blood or looks like coffee grounds
  • • Dark or bloody stools, blood in the urine
  • • Trouble breathing, swallowing
  • • Trouble speaking, slowed speech
  • • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • • Fever, chills, sore throat
  • • Fast heartbeat
  • • Yellowing of skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • • Joint pain
  • • Weakness, numbness of arm or leg
  • • Confusion, hallucinations

Again, alert your doctor immediately if you have any of these side effects. Do not stop taking prescribed medicine without a doctor’s order. If you stop taking medicine without consulting a doctor, your condition may grow worse.

You might need to take antiplatelet medicines for the rest of your life, depending on your condition. You should have your blood tested regularly to monitor how your blood is clotting. Keep all appointments with your doctor and the lab, so your body's response to antiplatelet therapy can be closely monitored.

Wear a medical alert bracelet or carry a card in your wallet or purse, so in the event of an accident, emergency responders will know you are taking antiplatelet medicines.

Talk to a doctor about your care or any questions you have.

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