Advances in medicine has saved the lives of people who would not have survived certain conditions even a few decades ago. One of these conditions is the formation of dangerous blood clots. Normally, blood clots are a good thing, for they prevent excessive blood loss and help wounds to heal. Hemophilia, for example, is an inherited disease where the blood doesn’t clot properly. People who have hemophilia must take care even when they engage in normal activities such as play or sports because of the risk of uncontrolled bleeds. But a blood clot that is found in the wrong place can be dangerous, for it can lodge in a vital organ and stop the flow of blood to that organ. This is extraordinarily dangerous when a clot is found in the heart, the lungs, the brain or the blood vessels that serve them.
What Are Blood Thinners?
Blood thinners are usually thought of as medications that prevent blood from clotting or make it take longer for blood clots to form. They don't really "thin" the patient's blood. They can be taken orally, injected or delivered through an IV line. Some blood thinners are added to equipment where blood shouldn’t be allowed to clot such as test tubes and dialysis machines.
There are many natural substances that inhibit blood clots. Animals such as mosquitoes and leeches have natural blood thinners that allow them to get a blood meal, and substances are found in foods such as garlic, fish oil, onions, green tea, ginger, soybean and turmeric. Willow bark has been used as a painkiller and blood thinnert for millennia.
When Are Blood Thinners Needed?
People need blood thinners when they are at risk for blood clots forming because of injury, disease or surgery. People who are prescribed blood thinners include those who have a deep vein thrombosis which is a blood clot found in a large vein in the leg. This clot can break off, travel to the lung and cause a potentially life-threatening pulmonary embolism.
People who suffer from atrial fibrillation may need medication afterward, because a blood clot sometimes forms in the person’s artery after an attack. Other people who need this have diseases of the coronary artery, who have had a stroke or heart attack or who have a tendency to form blood clots in their body. People who have restenosis caused by stents also benefit from blood thinners. Restenosis is when a blood vessel that has been treated for being too narrow renarrows. Stents are devices placed in blood vessels to keep them open.
List of Blood Thinners
A list of blood thinners includes:
- Coumarins - Coumarins stop the action of vitamin K, which is crucial in helping the blood clot. Coumarin, like many drugs, is derived from plants.
- One type of blood thinner is derived from the intestines of pigs and works by activating a chemical which helps blood to clot. This type is also used in medical equipment such as test tubes to keep the blood they contain from clotting.
- Novel oral blood thinners - Novel oral blood thinners work by inhibiting blood cloths from forming in the first place.
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