Blood Thinning Medication
If you have had a stroke or TIA, and the doctor has established that it was not caused by a bleed, it is extremely likely that you will be given some kind of blood thinning medication. This is a preventative measure, which has been proven effective in reducing the risk of further strokes.
Blood clotting occurs due to special cells called platelets, sticking together. Antiplatelets drugs make this harder to do. There are 3 main antiplatelet drugs used in reducing the risk of stroke
Aspirin is very effective in reducing the risk of stroke at low doses (75mg per day) and is also very safe. Aspirin does not suit everybody and some people may not be able to take it.
Dipyridamole works in a slightly different way to aspirin, but has the same effect. It is usually used in combination with aspirin but it can be used as an alternative to aspirin if aspirin cannot be tolerated. However it is not suitable for everybody.
Recent studies have confirmed that the combination of taking both aspirin and dipyridamole together is the most effective treatment to reducing the risk of further TIA and stroke.
Clopidogrel is mainly used in this context as an alternative to aspirin and dipyridamole because of side effects or allergy.
Warfarin is an oral anticoagulant that interferes with blood clotting, making the formation of clots more difficult. It is particularly useful in preventing strokes in people with atrial fibrillation and heart valve replacements.
Warfarin may also be considered if it is thought that a stroke has happened due to atrial fibrillation, a heart valve problem or a recent heart attack. The doctor will decide on the best timing of starting warfarin after a stroke event.
Because warfarin increases the risk of bleeding, it has to be taken with some caution and is not suitable for everybody.
The dosage of warfarin prescribed varies according to blood test results. Initially this will be once a week but once it has stabilised then it can be done less frequently. Warfarin should be taken at the same time every day to get the most accurate results.
People taking warfarin are also advised to limit their alcohol intake to one unit a day and to report any changes they notice that could be an indication of bleeding problems, such as frequent nosebleeds, bruising easily, dark coloured urine or bowel motions.