Warfarin is a prescription anticoagulant medication that is taken for the prevention of blood clots. Warfarin can prevent blood clots from developing, and reduce the risk of existing blood clots from getting bigger in the blood vessels. Typically, Warfarin, or Coumadin ®, as it is otherwise known, is prescribed for people with conditions such as irregular heartbeat. In addition, patients with mechanical or replacement heart valves are prescribed Warfarin for thrombosis prevention.
Frequently, Warfarin is also prescribed for patients who have a history, or risk factors for heart attack. In addition, it is also recommended for the prevention of pulmonary embolism, or blood clot in the lung. Anticoagulants, which work as blood thinners, decrease platelet aggregation in the blood. Although anticoagulants are very effective in treating certain medical conditions, they can also cause dangerous side effects or adverse reactions. These risks are rare, but patients need to be medically monitored when receiving them.
Sometimes, Warfarin or Coumadin® can cause life-threatening bleeding. It is important for the patient to inform the physician if he has any bleeding disorders. Abnormal bleeding related to anticoagulant therapy is more likely to occur in patients over the age of 65 and during the first couple weeks of treatment. The risk for bleeding is also more prevalent in those patients participating in sports or activities that may cause serious injury.
Typically, Warfarin therapy is considered safe, however, it may cause significant side effects. Patients are advised to notify their physician if they experience prolonged bleeding from a cut, nosebleeds, or blood in their urine. Similarly, if the individual experiences bleeding gums, coughs up blood or notices blood in the stool, the doctor should be notified. If bleeding is excessive and prolonged, patients need to seek emergency medical evaluation and treatment.
Most of the time, abnormal bleeding will present as frank blood, however, anticoagulant therapy can cause occult bleeding. This type of hidden bleeding can manifest itself by causing anemia. Signs of anemia may include paleness, fatigue and rapid heart rate. Symptoms of anemia must be reported to the doctor at once, as should the presence of unusual bruising and small, pinpoint red spots that appear under the skin. The bruising and pinpoint spots can signify internal bleeding.
Generally, side effects from blood thinners are mild, and can be effectively treated with medication adjustments and dietary changes. Patients should avoid green leafy vegetables that often contain excessive Vitamin K because these can contribute to increased risk of adverse reaction to Warfarin. The physician will periodically order blood tests to make sure the patient's blood is clotting sufficiently. Sometimes, if the patient cannot tolerate prescription anticoagulant therapy, the physician may prescribe over-the-counter aspirin, which is also an effective anticoagulant.