Anticoagulants (also known as 'blood thinners') can help to lower your risk of stroke. Warfarin is probably the most well-recognised anticoagulant, while dabigatran is a newer medication.

Types of anticoagulants

  • warfarin
  • dabigatran e.g. Pradaxa

How do they work?

Anticoagulants help to slow clotting, preventing blood clots from forming and growing.

What's the catch?

Anticoagulants help to prevent all blood clots. This means that it will be difficult to stop any accidental bleeding while you are taking either warfarin or dabigatran.

Dabigatran - In addition to increasing your risk of bleeding, dabigatran can cause some unwanted side effects like indigestion and heartburn.  

What checks do I need?

Warfarin - ongoing blood tests are required to check how long it takes your blood to clot. The effect of warfarin can be influenced by other medication and even your diet. When you first start warfarin, your doctor won't know the dose you need and sometimes it can take days or even weeks to get the dose right.

Dabigatran - the dose does not need to be adjusted and there are no monitoring or blood tests required.

What should I look out for?

If you have any unusual signs of bruising, or blood in your urine or motions, let your doctor know immediately.

Many medications and 'health foods' can alter how warfarin works, so it is important to tell your doctor or nurse about anything else you take, including herbal or complementary treatments. This is also important for dabigatran.

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