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How do blood thinners work?

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Blood thinners don’t actually make your blood thinner or break up clots. However, they do keep blood from forming new clots. They can also slow the growth of existing ones.

Some anticoagulants do this by removing vitamin K from the liver. Your body needs this to make proteins called clotting factors. These help blood cells and platelets (tiny pieces of blood cells) bind together.

Antiplatelets keep platelets from sticking to each other and to the walls of blood vessels. These drugs are weaker than anticoagulants. They’re often prescribed to people at risk for future blood clots, rather than to treat existing ones.

From: Blood Thinner Basics WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES: American Heart Association: "What Are Anticoagulants and Antiplatelet Agents?" Northwest Primary Care: "Helpful Tips for Those Taking Anticoagulant Medications." Society for Vascular Surgery: "Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)." American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Deep Vein Thrombosis." UpToDate: "Patient Information: Warfarin (Coumadin)."

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on May 20, 2019

SOURCES: American Heart Association: "What Are Anticoagulants and Antiplatelet Agents?" Northwest Primary Care: "Helpful Tips for Those Taking Anticoagulant Medications." Society for Vascular Surgery: "Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)." American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Deep Vein Thrombosis." UpToDate: "Patient Information: Warfarin (Coumadin)."

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on May 20, 2019

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Who needs to use blood thinners?

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