What is low-dose aspirin?

Aspirin has several uses. One of them is to reduce the risk of conditions like stroke and heart disease that are caused by blood clots. When it’s used in this way, aspirin is called an antiplatelet medicine.

In low doses, aspirin reduces the stickiness of platelets — a type of blood cell fragment. This stops platelets from clumping together to form blood clots. Because of this, low-dose aspirin is used to prevent life-threatening conditions caused by clots, such as stroke (including in people with atrial fibrillation), heart disease and unstable angina.

Aspirin is a suitable anti-clotting medicine for conditions where the blood clot is best treated with an antiplatelet. Other antiplatelet medicines such as clopidogrel (e.g. Plavix, Iscover) or dipyridamole are sometimes added to aspirin or used as an alternative. Sometimes aspirin is used as an alternative to warfarin to reduce blood clotting, but this depends on your individual condition and circumstances, and aspirin and warfarin cannot always be substituted for each other. (Read more about warfarin, and anticoagulant medicines).

Aspirin is also used to treat pain and inflammation, and is a type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine. Other medicines in this group can also cause bleeding as a side effect, so it’s important to check with your health professional before taking other pain medicines while you are using low-dose aspirin (find out more about medicine interactions with aspirin).