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Aspirin as an anticoagulant can be very effective, although it is not as strong as other medications like warfarin. It is typically recommended to prevent diseases caused by clotting problems, often in the wake of a medical event that indicates a patient may be at increased risk. Some people may use it in combination therapy with another medication, depending on the situation and advice from a care provider. There are some risks associated with using aspirin as an anticoagulant, and it is important to be monitored while on the medication for signs of complications.
Patients often associate aspirin with its painkilling effects, but this medication also has other properties. It prevents platelet aggregation, making it hard for the blood to clot, and appears to act on some of the other chemical processes involved in triggering coagulation and the formation of clots. Taking low doses of aspirin for an extended period may be recommended to protect the heart and prevent strokes, especially if a patient has a higher risk. Some manufacturers specifically produce low-dose formulations for therapeutic use.
This can be a cost effective solution for making sure a patient gets anticoagulant therapy if it is needed. Patients can buy aspirin over the counter and take doses as directed, with periodic check-ins to assess their health and ongoing medical needs. Using aspirin as an anticoagulant can be easier to adhere to than a prescription that needs to be regularly refilled, especially if it is an injectable medication that the patient has to administer, or visit a doctor to receive.
The biggest risk with taking aspirin as an anticoagulant is gastric bleeding, illustrating just how effective it can be. Aspirin can contribute to the formation of stomach ulcers which may bleed more freely when the blood is thinned because the patient is taking aspirin. While on this therapy, people may need to be careful about other medications or food linked with ulcers, and could need to take steps to protect themselves. If a gastric bleed does develop, it needs to be treated promptly.
For some people, using aspirin as an anticoagulant may not be enough. The medication might not have the strength to prevent clotting with serious disorders, in which case a stronger drug would need to be provided. While on any type of anticoagulant therapy, regular blood tests can check clotting time and determine if the patient is developing complications. Patients should also be aware that they may develop increased bleeding and bruising, especially around the joints. Carrying a medic alert card with information about the anticoagulant therapy is strongly recommended.