Warfarin - Medical Negligence Lawyers
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Warfarin is also called Coumadin and is an oral blood thinner used to prevent, but not break up, blood clots. It can be a lifesaving medication if you’ve had a stroke and do not want to get another one or if you’re prone to blood clots in the leg. It has, however, a narrow window of safety—too much and you bleed; too little and you have unacceptable clotting. Unfortunately, there are a number of drugs and supplements that interfere with Coumadin and a doctor must know what these are in order to properly prescribe the drug. You should tell your doctor which drugs or supplements you are taking at the time the drug is prescribed and anytime drugs or supplements change.
Warfarin is prescribed for the following reasons:
- You have a blood clot near your heart that could cause a stroke or heart attack
- You have a pulmonary embolism
- You have a deep vein thrombosis.
- You have a high risk of clots in the heart.
- You have a mechanical heart valve that is prone to getting clots.
Warfarin causes your blood to clot less. You may bleed heavily if you cut yourself. Your risk of bleeding complications is worse if you are greater than 75 years old or otherwise are taking other bleeding medication.
Side effects include the following:
- Heavy bleeding.
- Black, tarry stools.
- Hives, itching, or a rash.
- Facial, throat, mouth, legs or feet swelling.
- Bruising in spite of no injury.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Chest pressure or pain.
- Flu-like symptoms.
- Muscle aches or joint pain.
- Difficulty moving.
- Numbness or tingling.
While it is extremely uncommon, warfarin can be responsible for tissue necrosis and gangrene, needing amputation. This can happen 3-8 days after starting the medication.
Less serious side effects of warfarin include:
- Abdominal gas.
- Cold feelings.
- Pale skin.
- Hair loss.
- Change in taste.
Make sure you tell the doctor about other medications your taking while on Coumadin. Very bad reactions can occur between warfarin and other medications. Make sure you tell your doctor or dentist if you are to have a medical procedure, operation or dental procedures. You have to stop Coumadin at least ten days before having a procedure. The doctor can take a blood test in order to know that the medicine is completely out of your system.
Wear a bracelet or necklace that says you are on warfarin. Steer clear of activities that could injury you. Take a warfarin sensitivity test that can tell you if you are among the 1/3 of people who are hypersensitive to the drug. If you are prescribed a new medication, let the prescriber and pharmacist know of the prescription change.
What are the prescription and non-prescription medications that interfere with taking warfarin? You should have an idea of what these medications are:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
- Aspirin products.
- Many antibiotic medications.
- Birth control pills.
- Cold and allergy pills.
- Amiodarone and other antiarrythmics.
As this isn’t a complete list, it is up to the doctor and pharmacist to keep track of the various drug interactions with warfarin. There are scores of supplements that can cause interactions with warfarin. These need to be kept track of. If the reaction causes the warfarin to be too strong, haemorrhaging can result and there can be bruising, bleeding on the brain (a hemorrhagic stroke) and external bleeding in a cut.
If the warfarin is too weak, the blood can clot in the deep veins of the legs and travel to the lungs in the form of a pulmonary embolism. There can be ischemic strokes and clotting within the coronary arteries of the heart. Either way, if the Coumadin is too strong or too weak, there can be life threatening complications.
Certain foods and drinks, such as those high in vitamin K, can adversely affect Coumadin levels. These include broccoli, spinach, soybean oil and canola oil. The same is true of licorice and garlic so stabilize the amount of these foods you eat.
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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here