How Prescription Blood Thinners Work to Prevent Blood Clots

2019-10-04

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Xarelto is a prescription medication formulated to treat and prevent blood clots from forming and reduce the risk of stroke and other blood clot-related emergencies. This type of medication is called an anticoagulant (an-ti-co-ag-yoo-lant).

It is prescribed to patients who have had some of the following medical conditions:

Pulmonary Embolism (PE)

Hip or knee replacement

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

Nonvalvular Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)

How do Blood Thinners Work?

Blood thinners don’t actually thin your blood. There are two types of blood thinners.

Anticoagulants work by slowing down your body’s ability to create clots. Prescription anticoagulants include:

Xarelto

Coumadin/warfarin

Pradaxa

Eliquis

Antiplatelets (like Aspirin or Plavix) prevent cells (platelets) from sticking together to create a clot.

What is a Blood Clot?

Let’s begin with the basics. Blood clotting is called coagulation. We know that blood thinners are designed to help prevent the formation of blood clots, but what exactly is a blood clot and how does it form?

To put it in simple terms, in a healthy normal situation, when a blood vessel or tissue in your body is injured or damaged, platelets in your blood begin to stick to the damaged area to protect the area – much like a scab forming when you skin your knee. When the tissue that was damaged heals, the clot in your body is dissolved and the platelets and cells that made up the clot are taken back into your blood stream.

The danger comes when a blood clot forms without any injury to the body and it is not dissolved or reabsorbed into the body.

Clots can form in different parts of the body, such as the major veins in the legs, pelvis, arms, or other large veins. If the clot detaches from the vein wall, travels through to the lungs and prevents blood flow, it is called a pulmonary embolism. A clot in a vein can also prevent blood from reaching the heart. Should a blood clot happen in the brain, it can cause a stroke.

Watch this video from the American Society of Hematology about how a blood clot causes a pulmonary embolism

Are You at Risk for Developing Blood Clots?

There are several risk factors that may increase your body’s tendency to form clots. There are even some medications that may affect how fast or slow your blood clots.

Physical risk factors include:

Immobility (long flights or car rides where you are not moving, sitting long at work, or during illness)

Smoking

Oral contraceptives

Some surgeries

Diabetes

High blood pressure

A family history of blood clots

Being over 60 years of age

Obesity

High cholesterol

Symptoms of Blood Clots

The symptoms related to blood clots depend on where the clot has formed. Some symptoms may include:

Abdomen – nausea, pain, diarrhea

Lung – severe pain, shortness of breath, fast heartbeat, fever, perspiration

Brain – sudden head pain, dizziness, weakness in the face, arms and/or legs, vision problems, speech difficulty

Arm or leg – tenderness, warmth and/or swelling in one area or the entire arm/leg, pain

Heart – severe chest pain, heaviness feeling, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, sweating, upper body discomfort

Prescription Xarelto to Prevent Blood Clots

Blood thinners (anticoagulants) slow down the body’s process of making clots.

Xarelto is one of these blood thinners. The active ingredient in Xarelto is rivaroxaban.

Xarelto is manufactured by Bayer Inc. and comes in four strengths.

2.5 mg

10 mg

15 mg

20 mg

Xarelto is a small pill and is taken at particular times of the day and on a regime prescribed by your doctor. You should never increase or decrease your Xarelto prescription without specific directions from your doctor. If you have questions about when to take Xarelto, what to do if you miss a dose, or whether you should take Xarelto with or without food, it is very important that you speak with your pharmacist.

Some patients who have experienced blood clots live in fear of another event. However, with prescription medications like Xarelto that help prevent further blood clots, along with healthy lifestyle changes and guidance from your doctor and pharmacist, you can have peace of mind that you are doing everything you can to be on your way to a healthier and stronger you.


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