Platelets are blood cells that help the blood clot and prevent bleeding. When you cut yourself platelets begin to work and help your blood to clot and stop you bleeding. Antiplatelet drugs are a group of powerful medications that prevent the formation of blood clots. They are effective in the arterial circulation, where anticoagulants have little effect.
When you are wounded, platelets arrive on the scene and group together, forming a blood clot that stops the bleeding. In many situations, this is a good thing, but platelets can also cause clots to form in an already injured or stressed artery and these clots may lead to a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or a stroke. Antiplatelet medications can help to prevent this process from occurring.
Examples of antiplatelet drugs are Aspirin, Plavix (Clopidogrel), Prasugrel and Dipyridamole.
How are antiplatelets taken?Antiplatelets are tablets that are usually taken once or twice a day. They should not be taken on an empty stomach. People with bleeding problems or ulcers, should talk to their doctor before taking these drugs, as they may cause excessive bleeding. Always read the labels of other pain relievers and cold products to make sure they are aspirin-free. Medicines containing aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may cause bleeding problems when taken along with antiplatelet drugs.
Always tell the pharmacist (chemist) what medication you are taking before buying over the counter medicines, vitamins or herbal remedies. Before any surgical or dental procedure or emergency treatment, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking this medicine. Always carry some form of medical alert system that tells others that you are on antiplatelet therapy. This may be vital in case of an accident where you are unconscious and bleeding.
For what conditions are antiplatelet drugs prescribed?Antiplatelets may be prescribed for patients with a history of:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart attack
- Angina (chest pain)
- Stroke and transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs)
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
- After angioplasty and stent placement
- After heart bypass surgery
- To prevent the formation of blood clots in people with atrial fibrillation
About Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). American Heart Association. Accessed at https://www.heart.org/ on January 28, 2018.
Antiplatelets. NMIHI. Accessed at http://drugs.nmihi.com/antiplatelets.htm on January 29, 2018.
Heart Attack. Symptoms and causes. MFMER. Accessed at https://www.mayoclinic.org/ on January 29, 2018.
Peripheral Artery Disease. NIH. Accessed at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/ on November 22, 2018.