Anticoagulants are medications that slow down the body’s ability to make blood clots. These medications are sometimes called blood thinners. Anticoagulants are available in the following forms: intravenous, injections under the skin, and pills.
Anticoagulants can be used to treat or prevent several medical conditions. Some of the common conditions are: Blood Clot in a vein (DVT, phlebitis), blood clot in the lung (PE), blood clot in an artery in the brain (stroke or TIA), abnormal heart rhythm, blockage of an artery in the heart which can cause a heart attack, heart valve replacement, and total joint replacement.
What is warfarin and How much do I take?
Warfarin is one of the most frequently prescribed oral anticoagulants. It is currently available under the brand name Coumadin®.
The dosage of warfarin is specific to each patient. It is regulated according to the results of a blood test called the International Normalized Ratio (INR). The INR measures how quickly the blood is clotting and suggests if your dosage of Warfarin should be adjusted.
Other Points to Follow While Taking Anticoagulants
This is a general list to keep in mind and follow while you are taking anticoagulants.
- Maintain the same diet, eat the same types of foods you ate before unless otherwise instructed
- Consult your doctor regarding any diet changes
- Avoid “binge” and crash diets
- Consult your doctor before taking any new vitamins, mineral supplements or new medications
- An excess of foods high in vitamin K could have an effect on your anticoagulation
- Alcoholic beverages may alter the effect of anticoagulants
- Avoid taking medications containing aspirin unless specifically ordered by your doctor
- Other medications will frequently alter the effects of warfarin, including a large number of over-the counter medications and antibiotics. Be sure that the doctor prescribing any other medications is aware that you are taking warfarin.
- Carry a form of identification indicating you are taking an anticoagulant such as a medic alert bracelet and wallet card
- While traveling, take an adequate supply of medications with you, carry medications with you – not in your luggage (you will probably need a note, FAA rules – call the airline prior to travelling), consult your doctor prior to travel
- If you miss a single dose of anticoagulant medication, take it as soon as you remember to take it, up to 24 hours after missing the dose
- If you miss multiple doses or if more than 24 hours elapses, contact your doctor
- If you fall or obtain a blow to your head or body, contact your doctor. Internal bleeding could occur without you being aware of a problem. Please see more information on this below.
- Inform all healthcare providers and dentists that you are taking anticoagulants
- Don’t go barefoot
- Wear gloves when gardening
- Use an electric razor
- Be careful when handling sharp objects
- Use proper fingernail and toenail care
- Don’t change dose or stop taking your anticoagulant medication unless your doctor tells you to do so
- Take medications at the same time each day
When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider
Important signs of bleeding you need to report or call to your doctor:
- Bleeding from your nose or a cut that does not stop within 5-10 minutes
- Increased bleeding from gums or teeth with brushing
- Blood seen with coughing or vomiting
- Increased bleeding during menstrual periods or unexpected vaginal bleeding
- Urine dark brown or red in color
- Bowel movements which are black or red
- Difficulty breathing at rest or with mild activity, dizziness or prolonged headaches
Keep all medications away from children.
Notify your healthcare provider if you become pregnant or are attempting to become pregnant. Anticoagulants pills may harm a fetus. However, anticoagulant injections are safe in pregnancy.
Important Information About Anticoagulants and Head Injuries
What should I do if I’ve hit my head?
If you hit your head, seek immediate medical attention. Even if you do not have any signs of a head injury you should still go to the hospital. If you wait until you have symptoms of a head injury if may be too late.
Who’s at risk?
Some health conditions may increase the risk of falling. These conditions include, but are not limited to:
- Parkinson’s Disease
- High or low blood pressure
Signs and Symptoms
Early signs and symptoms of a concussion/brain injury may be absent or slight. Some of these signs and symptoms may include:
- Lightheaded or dizzy
- Mood changes
- Urge to vomit
- Sensitivity to light and sounds
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Loss of balance
- Difficulty with remembering or concentrating
- Slowness in actions or speaking
Remember, you may have no symptoms after you hit your head but you still need to seek immediate medical attention.
Treatment and Prevention
When you go to the hospital let the healthcare professionals know that you have been injured and take anticoagulants. Your care will be expedited to ensure that you will receive a prompt diagnosis and treatment.
It is a good idea to wear a medic alert bracelet that indicates you are on anticoagulants. This bracelet will alert medical personnel that you are on this medication and aid in your treatment.
APS Foundation of America, Inc. is not intended to replace standard doctor-patient visits, physical examination, and medical testing. Information given to members is only an opinion. All information should be confirmed with your personal doctor. Always seek the advice of a trained physician in person before seeking any new treatment regarding your medical diagnosis or condition. Any information received from APS Foundation of America, Inc is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure. This brochure is for informational purposes only.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
A team of people contributed to this publication. Information was adapted from various website, books and other media sources. Please contact us through the website for a complete list of sources. This pamphlet was assessed at draft stage by doctors, allied health professionals, an education specialist and people with APS. A non-medical editor rewrote the text to make it easy to understand and an APS Foundation of America, Inc. medical editor is responsible for the content overall.
Founded in 2005, the APS Foundation of America, Inc. is dedicated to fostering and facilitating joint efforts in the areas of education, public awareness, research, and patient services for Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS) in an effective and ethical manner.
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DISCLAIMER: APS Foundation of America, Inc. website is not intended to replace standard doctor-patient visits, physical examination, and medical testing. Information given to members is only an opinion. All information should be confirmed with your personal doctor. Always seek the advice of a trained physician in person before seeking any new treatment regarding your medical diagnosis or condition. Any information received from APS Foundation of America, Inc. website is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure. This site is for informational purposes only. Please note that we will be listing all donor or purchaser's names on the Donor page of our foundation site. If you do not want your name listed, please contact us to opt out. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.