What do I need to know about antiplatelets?

Antiplatelet medicines affect the blood clotting in your arteries and veins. Aspirin is the most well-known antiplatelet medicine. While it is cheap and you can buy it over the counter, prescription types are also available.

When are antiplatelets prescribed?

Your doctor may prescribe this type of medicine for you to help prevent blood clots from forming in your heart.

Common Names for Antiplatelets

The following table lists some common brand and generic names for antiplatelets.

brand generic
Aggrenox dipyridamole and aspirin in combination
Aspirin, various aspirin
Persantine dipyridamole
Plavix clopidogrel

ticlopidine HCl

How Antiplatelets Work

Antiplatelets stop the formation of blood clots. They do this by decreasing the stickiness of platelets in your blood. This action cuts the chance for blood-clotting cells to clump together and form a new clot. It also helps prevent blood clots from forming on top of existing plaque. When a clot forms on plaque, blood vessels can block off completely. This blockage can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Precautions and Possible Side Effects of Antiplatelets

Precautions to take when you are on antiplatelets:

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant. You'll need to talk about whether or not you can take aspirin during this time.
  • Tell your doctor if you have any of the following conditions:
    • an alcohol abuse problem
    • an allergy to aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, called NSAIDs
    • asthma
    • blood problems
    • bronchitis
    • depression
    • diabetes, and whether you take insulin
    • gastrointestinal disease or bleeding
    • liver or kidney disease
    • peptic ulcer
Possible side effects of antiplatelet medicines that you may notice:
  • cough
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • excessive bleeding anywhere in the body
  • headache
  • heart palpitations
  • rash
  • ringing in the ears
  • stomach irritation that ranges from mild heartburn to bleeding ulcers

If you develop any side effects from your medicine, tell your doctor.

Possible side effects of antiplatelets that you may not notice: Although you may not be aware that your body is experiencing any of the following changes, your doctor will be able to test for these side effects during an office visit. Be sure to keep all follow-up appointments with your doctor.

  • kidney or liver failure
  • changes in blood pressure
  • low white blood cell counts, or neutropenia

Possible Drug Interactions with Antiplatelets

Antiplatelet medicines do not always work well with other medicines. If you take this type of medicine, talk with your doctor or pharmacist before you take anything else. Give them a chance to tell you about possible interactions. Never take aspirin with anticoagulants unless you talk with your doctor first. These medicines have a similar action in your body. They should not be used together unless your doctor says it is OK.

Keep regular appointments with your doctor so that he or she can monitor your progress while you take antiplatelet medicines. Do not use any other medicine without your doctor's OK. This includes:

  • prescription medicines ordered by another doctor
  • over-the-counter medicines
  • herbal remedies
  • vitamins and minerals

It's best to keep an updated list of these and bring a copy to give to your doctor. That way you can add to it whenever you take something new or delete the types you no longer take. Make a copy for each of your doctors so that they can keep it in your file. This complete list helps your doctor be better prepared to prescribe an antiplatelet that is the least likely to interact with your other treatments.

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