Your doctor may have prescribed Eliquis (generic name: apixaban) to prevent serious blood clots from forming due to the condition known as atrial fibrillation, which is detected as an irregular heartbeat, to treat some forms of deep-vein thrombosis that can result in a pulmonary embolism, or perhaps after hip or knee replacement surgery as a preventative measure against formation of clots.
What is the Main Action of Eliquis?
Eliquis is the most effective anticoagulant medication currently prescribed for patients with atrial fibrillation, according to a study published in 2018. It’s effect is to directly and selectively inhibit the important chemical factor Xa, which leads to decreased conversion of prothrombin factor II to prothrombin factor IIa, resulting in decreased thrombin generation.
Formation of blood clots (thrombosis) relies on thrombin to facilitate what is known as the blood clotting cascade. Thrombin catalyzes the conversion of factor I (fibrinogen), which is a soluble protein carried in the blood plasma, into the insoluble factor Ia (fibrin). Fibrin threads form a mesh that works to trap platelets, blood cells, and plasma. The fibrin meshwork then contracts, squeezing out its fluid contents in the last step in coagulation. The result is an insoluble clot that can withstand the friction of blood flow.
What are the Dangers of Atrial Fibrillation?
In patients who are diagnosed as having atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers (the atria) of the heart are not beating regularly, usually due to chaotic electrical signaling. As a result, blood clots can form, and if they break away and travel to other parts of the body, most importantly to the lungs or the brain, they can cause serious complications such as embolisms or strokes.
Roughly 15% of all victims of strokes suffer from atrial fibrillation.
How does Eliquis Work for People with Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation can be treated in two main ways. At first, doctors will try to correct the cause of the fibrillation, which is an irregular rhythm in the heartbeat. This can be done either with medication to slow down and regulate the heartbeat, or by “jolting” the heart with an electric shock (known as a cardioversion).
Along with these treatments, doctors will normally prescribe anticoagulant medication such as Eliquis, which works to this the blood so as to lessen the chance of blood clots forming. Apixaban is an anticoagulant that works by blocking clotting proteins in the blood and this reduces the clotting factor.
What are the Dangers of Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is one of the main causes of the serious condition of pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blockage of one of the pulmonary arteries caused by a blood clot that forms somewhere else in the body that travels up into the lung.
The thrombus (DVT), or blood clot, can form in a deep leg or arm vein which may break off, passing through the heart up to a lung where it gets trapped in the narrow vessels, causing a blockage of blood supply and tissue death.
How does Eliquis work to Prevent DVT and Pulmonary Embolism?
Eliquis is an anticoagulant, or blood thinner, that works as the preventative treatment for reducing the risk of deep vein thrombosis that can result in a pulmonary embolism. Depending upon the individual condition of the patient, doctors may prescribe anticoagulation for three to six months or it may need to be used for a lifetime.
What are the Dangers Following on from Knee and Hip Replacement Surgery?
All major surgery carries risks, but the specific complications in knee and hip replacement procedures that Eliquis addresses relate to the possibility of thrombosis following the general anesthesia which can result in formation of blood clots.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and a resultant pulmonary embolism may be a direct consequence of the surgical procedure, and doctors will prescribe anticoagulant medication for at least a few months to reduce the risks.
What are the Most Common Side Effects of Eliquis?
You should bear in mind that your doctors have prescribed this medication because they believe that the benefit to you is greater than the risk from any side effects. Eliquis is a safe medication that has been very widely tested for safety and efficacy. If you have any concerns, you should discuss these with your prescribing doctor or pharmacist.
Eliquis has a few mild side effects such as nausea, easy bruising, or minor spontaneous bleeding such as a nosebleed or bleeding from scrapes and cuts that don’t stop quickly.
Your doctor will have given proper consideration to how the active ingredients in Eliquis interact with your other medications and could affect your health. In all cases, the doctor will consider that any adverse effects will be far outweighed by the life-giving benefits that Eliquis brings to patients with your condition. If you are in any doubt, discuss this with your doctor and pharmacist.
Are There Any Serious Side Effects of Eliquis?
Although severe side effects are extremely rare, be sure to tell your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you experience any feelings of discomfort, or, most importantly, severe spontaneous bleeding.
Be sure to tell your doctor or pharmacist immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:
- serious bleeding
- coughing up blood
- unusually heavy or prolonged menstrual flow
- unusual pain, swelling, discomfort or bruising
- prolonged bleeding from cuts or gums
- persistent/frequent nosebleeds
- pink/dark urine
- severe headache
- dizziness or fainting
- unusual or persistent tiredness or weakness
- bloody/black/tarry stools, or dark-colored vomiting
If you have signs of an allergic reaction, you should get emergency medical help. The signs include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty in breathing
- Feeling light-headed
- Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
- Back pain
- Numbness or muscle weakness in your lower body
- Loss of bladder or bowel control.
Talk to your doctor if you have:
- easy bruising
- unusual bleeding from your nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum
- bleeding from wounds or needle injections
- any bleeding that will not stop
- easy bleeding from gums
Can I discontinue taking Eliquis?
It is very important to not stop treatment suddenly. This may result in escalated blood pressure and other complications. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist before making any changes to the prescribed dosage.
What precautions should I take when on Eliquis?
Be sure to inform any doctor or dentist before having surgery or any dental procedures that you are taking this medication. This is especially important if they are performing any spinal puncture, spinal anesthesia or epidural anesthesia. The doctor or dentist may advise you to stop taking Eliquis before the process, but you should first get instructions from your original prescribing doctor before stopping the medication.
Intake of alcohol while using Eliquis can increase the risk of stomach bleeding, so you should at least limit your consumption of alcoholic beverages.
You can reduce the chances of uncontrolled bleeding from cuts by using caution with sharp objects like knives, razors and nail cutters. Preferably use an electric razor when shaving. Switch over to a soft toothbrush for brushing teeth.
You should reduce the possibility of bruising by avoiding contact sports. If you do engage, especially if you hit your head or you fall or injure yourself, you should contact your doctor immediately, since she may need to check for hidden bleeding that has serious consequences.
Can I take Eliquis when pregnant?
Normally, doctors will not prescribe Eliquis for pregnant women unless there are special reasons for which it is clearly needed. If you become pregnant when already being treated with Eliquis, talk to your obstetrician and the prescribing doctor, since it may increase the risk of bleeding both for you and for the baby. Discuss this with your doctor.