Common Stroke Medications With Horrible Side Effects

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Today, surviving a stroke is much more common thanks to better medications on the market. However, some common medications can still come with life-altering side effects. It’s important to be aware of the following medications and their potentially deadly risks.

1. Aspirin

Aspirin bottle with tablets

You probably shouldn’t pop an aspirin a day. | iStock.com

This medication is usually directed for use to lower the risk of blood clots. Aspirin thins the blood, so it is often prescribed after bypass surgery or any surgery on clogged arteries. While the serious side effects are rare, there are things you can do to help prevent them. Do not lie down for at least 10 minutes after taking the drug. Also, do not chew extended release tablets. This releases all of the medication at once, increasing the risk of side effects.

Here are a few serious aspirin side effects to watch out for:

Side effect: Increased risk of stroke

Stroke (cerebrovascular accident)

Stokes are oftentimes fatal. | iStock.com/stockdevil

This sounds counterproductive, but that’s because there are two types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic. According to the American Heart Association, about 87% of strokes in adults are ischemic (due to a blood clot). Once an ischemic stroke occurs, aspirin may be prescribed. However, daily aspirin therapy to prevent a second ischemic stroke can actually increase the chances of developing a hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes happen when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures.

Side effect: Stomach or intestinal rupture

Man clutching his stomach

Aspirin can increase your chance of internal bleeding. | iStock.com

Since aspirin thins the blood, it poses an increased risk of internal bleeding. Plus, those who take it have a greater chance of developing a stomach ulcer. If you take aspirin and already have an ulcer, it will increase the bleeding. If left untreated, this can potentially cause life-threatening stomach damage.

2. Plavix

prescription pills falling out of a bottle

Plavix is prescribed to people who already have heart problems. | iStock.com

Plavix is a brand name for a medication known as clopidogrel. It’s typically given to patients who have already had a heart attack or stroke. It can also be used by those who have a history of circulation problems. Plavix works as a platelet inhibitor. It reduces the chance of blood clots by preventing platelets in the blood from sticking together.

Here are a few serious side effects that may accompany Plavix:

Side effect: Severe bleeding

Brain lobes in different colors

Plavix may cause bleeding in the brain. | iStock.com/alex-mit

Plavix is also a blood thinner, which means increased bleeding can be a rare but serious side effect. Bleeding in the stomach, gut, eyes, or brain may occur while taking this blood thinner. Swelling of the eyes can also occur. Diarrhea or vomiting are signs you should immediately talk to your doctor.

Side effect: Blood disorders

Doctor drawing blood

You may develop blood clots on Plavix. | Picsfive/iStock/Getty Images

Plavix has been known to cause a rare but severe blood disorder. Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura — known as TTP — can form blood clots in small blood vessels throughout the body. Symptoms can appear any time after starting Plavix. These include severe stomach pain, uncontrolled bleeding from the gums or nose, confusion, unusual weakness, and more, according to WebMD.

3. Statins

Cholesterol level chart

Statins are prescribed to people with high cholesterol levels. | iStock.com/designer491

Statins include medications like Lipitor and Crestor. They’re most commonly used to reduce high cholesterol in adults. Statins reduce a person’s total cholesterol in order to reduce their overall risk for a heart attack or stroke. Statins work by blocking a substance in the liver that helps produce cholesterol.

A few side effects to be aware of are:

Side effect: Muscle damage

Man showing his back muscles

We doubt you would want your muscles to be negatively impacted by your prescription. | iStock.com

Muscle damage can show in the form of soreness in the muscles and tiredness or weakness. In rare cases, statins can cause life-threatening muscle damage known as rhabdomyolysis. Apart from muscle damage, this disease can lead to liver damage and kidney failure, which can cause death. You should not take statins with certain drugs that can pose an increased risk of rhabdomyolysis.

Side effect: Liver damage

illustration showing male liver anatomy

Not all statins will cause liver damage. | iStock.com/sankalpmaya

Liver damage can occur on its own without rhabdomyolysis, according to MayoClinic.org. This happens when statins cause an increase in the enzymes that signal liver inflammation. This is rare, and different statins affect different livers, so it’s possible to switch to another statin and solve the problem. However, a doctor may stop statin completely before causing severe damage. Symptoms of liver damage include pain in the upper abdomen, yellowed skin or eyes, or dark urine.

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