Antiplatelet drugs are used to treat heart disease. They are a group of powerful medications that prevent the formation of blood clots. When you are wounded, platelets arrive on the scene and group together, forming a blood clot that stops the bleeding. When an injury involves a break in your skin, this is a good thing. But platelets can also aggregate when injury to a blood vessel occurs from within the inside, as may happen in an artery affected by atherosclerosis. In this situation, the platelets cause blood clots to develop in an already injured artery. Antiplatelet medications can prevent this process from happening.
Why Are Antiplatelets Used?
Antiplatelets may be prescribed for patients with a history of:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart attack
- Angina (chest pain)
- Stroke and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)
- Peripheral artery disease
Antiplatelets are also used:
- After angioplasty and stent placement.
- After heart bypass or valve replacement surgery.
- To prevent the formation of blood clots in people with atrial fibrillation.
How Are Antiplatelets Taken?
Antiplatelets are pills that are usually taken once or twice a day. They should not be taken on an empty stomach.
People with bleeding problems, ulcers, or those who are planning to undergo surgery, including dental surgery, should talk to their doctor before taking these drugs, as they may cause excessive bleeding.
You should not stop taking your antiplatelet drug unless advised by your doctor.
These drugs may need to be taken for the rest of your life, depending on your condition. You may need to undergo regular blood tests to monitor your medication dosage. Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory so that your response to the medication can be checked.
While taking these antiplatelets, ask your doctor what medicines you may take for pain relief or minor colds. Read the labels of other pain relievers and cold products to make sure they are aspirin-free. Medicines containing aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may cause bleeding problems when taken along with antiplatelet drugs.
Before any surgery, dental procedure, or emergency treatment, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking this medicine. You might need to stop taking it for five to seven days before dental work or surgery. However, do not stop taking this medicine without first consulting with your doctor.
Use caution during activities requiring alertness (such as driving a car) until you know how this drug affects you.
Are There Side Effects of Antiplatelets?
Antiplatelets may have side effects. Nausea, upset stomach, stomach pain, diarrhea, rash, and itching are the most common side effects. To reduce nausea and stomach upset, take these medications with meals. Contact your doctor if these side effects are severe or do not go away.
People taking antiplatelet medication are advised to contact their doctor immediately if they experience any of the following:
- Any signs of unusual bleeding, such as blood in the urine or stool, nosebleeds, any unusual bruising, heavy bleeding from cuts, black tarry stools, coughing up of blood, unusually heavy menstrual bleeding or unexpected vaginal bleeding, vomit that looks like coffee grounds.
- Severe headache
- Difficulty swallowing
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing or wheezing
- Tightness in chest, chest pain
- Fever, chills, sore throat
- Swelling of face or hands
- Ringing in the ears
- Severe stomach pain
Can Pregnant Women Take Antiplatelets?
If you are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, inform your doctor before taking antiplatelets.
Taking antiplatelets during the last two weeks of pregnancy may cause bleeding problems in the baby or mother both before and after delivery.
Can I Breastfeed My Baby While Taking Antiplatelets?