Blood Clotting Disorder Treatment Heparin

Low Molecular Weight Heparin (LMWH) is the medical name for the medication that is most often referred to as heparin. Heparin is an anticoagulant and is used to prevent blood clots from occurring. It does not dissolve blood clots that have already formed, nor does it thin the blood.

Heparin is generally used before and after surgery to prevent the formation of blood clots and can also be used for people who are at risk for getting clots in the heart or lungs.

Administering Heparin

Heparin is given by injection, though it should not be injected into a muscle and should be injected either into a vein or deeply into the skin. Some people are able to give themselves heparin shots at home because they are fairly easy to give.

Some people, however, may need a heparin lock, which is a small tube that is connected to a catheter in your vein to allow for easy access.

Side Effects of Heparin

The most common side effect of heparin therapy is bleeding in the tissues or organs. A heparin antidote is available for anyone that experiences this uncontrolled bleeding. Other side effects of heparin include:

  • back/stomach pain
  • blood in urine or stool
  • bruising
  • chest pain or pressure
  • chills or fever
  • cold, blue hands or feet
  • coughing up blood
  • difficulty breathing
  • excessive sweating
  • fainting or feeling lightheaded
  • heavy menstrual bleeding
  • itching on the bottom of the feet
  • nausea or vomiting
  • skin rash or hives.

One of the possible side effects of heparin is heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, which is characterized by a low blood platelet count.

Some of the less serious side effects that come with using heparin include bruising and redness at the injection site and hair loss. These side effects generally do not need medical attention unless they become severe.

Heparin: Other Considerations

Other drugs can interact with heparin and make it less effective. These drugs include anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Herbal treatments and remedies can also interact with heparin, so it is important to let your doctor know all medications you are taking and if you use any type of herbal supplement.

In addition, smoking or the use of chewing tobacco can decrease the effectiveness of heparin, so you need to talk with your doctor about it, even if you stop smoking while you are taking heparin therapy.

People who Should Avoid Heparin

Heparin is not recommended for everyone. Some of the people who should not take heparin are:

  • people with liver disease
  • people with uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • those with a stomach or intestinal disorder
  • those with bleeding or clotting disorders such as hemophilia
  • women having their menstrual period
  • women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Heparin use over a long period of time can also cause osteoporosis, so it is important to discuss your heparin use with your doctor.

Resources

American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc. (n.d.). Heparin Injection. Retrieved September 24, 2007, from the Medline Plus Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/medmaster/a682826.html.

Cerner Multum, Inc. (n.d.). Heparin. Retrieved September 24, 2007, from the Drugs.com Web site: http://www.drugs.com/mtm/heparin.html.

Gold Standard Multimedia, Inc. (n.d.).Heparin Injection. Retrieved September 24, 2007, from the Drugs Digest Web site: http://www.drugdigest.org/DD/DVH/Uses/0,3915,315|Heparin Injection,00.html.