Heparin is a medication that doctors prescribe quite frequently in patients they feel are at risk of stroke or other blood clotting issue. Heparin is an anticoagulant or blood thinner. Anticoagulant medications work to stop the clotting process of the blood. Strokes are the result of blood clots in the brain. The blood clot blocks oxygen and blood flow to the brain resulting in severe complications and even death.
Patients may receive treatment with Heparin prior to surgery to help prevent clotting. Heparin cannot dissolve preexisting blood clots and only prevents new clots from developing. Heparin can help to prevent existing blood clots from getting larger than they are currently and therefore Heparin can help decrease the risk of a clot growing in size can causing more serious issues.
Heparin Warnings and Precautions
Patients should tell their doctor or pharmacist of any medications they are currently taking and about any allergies they have including allergies to pork products. Patients should not take Heparin if they currently have a low blood platelet count our uncontrollable bleeding.
In addition to providing their doctor or pharmacist with information about the medications they are currently taking, patients need to provide their doctor or pharmacist with their medical history, particularly if their history includes high blood pressure, heart problems, cancer, clotting disorders, liver or kidney disease, stomach ulcers or tube drainage.
Patients on a diet that restricts salt should discuss their Heparin use with their physician.
Women in particular, but all people over the age of 60 have a greater risk of bleeding while taking this medication.
Patients who are pregnant or could become pregnant or are breastfeeding should discuss their use of heparin with their physician.
Doctors prescribe Heparin to people who need help preventing and treating blood clots, particularly blood clots in the lungs and legs. Some physicians give patients Heparin prior to surgery, during dialysis, during blood testing and when a person is unable to move for a long period of time. Heparin helps the body’s natural anti-clotting proteins work more efficiently.
Heparin Side Effects
Common side effects of Heparin include pain, irritation and redness at the injection site. Rare but serious side effects include swelling at the injection site, easily broken bones and noticeable bone pain. Heparin can also cause bleeding in some patients.
Patients should tell their doctor immediately if they notice serious bleeding, pain, swelling or discomfort, prolonged bleeding from cuts, persistent nose bleeds, prolonged and heavy menstrual weekend, bruising easily, dark urine, black stools, severe headaches and unusual dizziness.
Some patients may develop Heparin induced thrombocytopenia and thrombosis, which is a bad reaction to Heparin that can happen during treatment or up to several weeks after patients discontinue treatment.
Patients should seek immediate medical attention if they develop any of these rare and very serious side effects such as pain or loss of feeling in the arms and legs, changing color in the arms and legs, chest pain, trouble breathing, weakness on one side of the body, vision changes or slurring speech.
Patients currently taking mifepristone should not take Heparin. Patients should also let the doctor know of all the medications they currently taking including over the counter medications and herbal supplements particularly medications such as antihistamines, antithrombin III, nicotine, digoxin, nitroglycerin that is given with an injection, tetracycline and other medications that can cause bleeding and bruising.
Some NSAID pain relievers can increase the risk of bleeding when taking while taking Heparin. Patients should also not mix or infuse doxorubicin, droperidol, ciprofloxacin or mitoxantrone in the same catheter or line.
Common symptoms of Heparin overdose include bleeding, persistent nosebleeds, blood in the patient’s urine, black stools and unusual bleeding or easy bleeding. If there is suspicion of an overdose seek medical attention immediately.
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