Warfarin: Taking Your Medicine Safely
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It's important to know how to take warfarin safely.
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Warfarin is a pill that you take regularly to help prevent blood clots. Coumadin is the common brand name for warfarin.
Warfarin is often called a "blood thinner," although it doesn't really thin your blood. It works by increasing the time it takes for blood clots to form. Warfarin also keeps an existing clot from getting larger.
Warfarin is taken to prevent serious problems that are caused by blood clots. These problems can be life-threatening. They include stroke, heart attack, and pulmonary embolism. If you are at risk for one of these problems, your doctor may prescribe warfarin for you. For example, warfarin is taken by people who:
Some people also take warfarin while they recover from certain types of surgery, such as a hip replacement.
Test Your Knowledge
When I take warfarin, my blood takes longer to clot.
Taking warfarin safely is important, because it can cause bleeding problems. You will get regular blood tests to make sure you are getting the safest dose possible.
But because warfarin slows the amount of time it takes for your blood to clot, you need to be extra careful. Bleeding problems can happen when you:
Test Your Knowledge
I need to be careful to avoid injury when I take warfarin.
Warfarin causes you to bleed more quickly when you're injured. So be sure to avoid doing things that increase your chances of bleeding. These are the four main steps you need to take:
1. Get regular blood tests.
Regular blood tests will help your doctor make sure you are taking the right amount of warfarin.
Things like an infection or a small change in your diet can change the way warfarin works. So can other medicines that you are taking. That's why regular testing is so important. The tests tell your doctor whether your dose needs to be changed.
2. Prevent falls and injuries.
Make these changes in your life to prevent falls:
Make these changes in your home to prevent falls:
Make these changes to prevent injuries:
3. Be careful with other medicines.
Taking other medicines along with warfarin can cause a bad reaction. For example, some medicines can change the way warfarin works so you bleed too easily. Or warfarin can change the way the other medicine works.
Talk to your doctor before you take any prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, antibiotics, vitamins, or herbal products. If other doctors prescribe something for you, be sure they know that you take warfarin. Here are some examples of medicines that you need to be careful of:
Follow these safety tips for taking medicines:
What to do if you miss a dose of your warfarin
If you miss a dose of warfarin, the best thing to do is call your doctor. He or she can tell you exactly what to do so you don't take too much or too little. That way you'll stay as safe as possible.
But here are some general rules:
4. Pay attention to your vitamin K
Most people who take warfarin can eat normally. But make sure that you don't suddenly eat a lot more or a lot less food that is high in vitamin K than you usually do.
Vitamin K helps your blood to clot so wounds don't bleed too much. Warfarin makes blood clots form more slowly. Suddenly changing the amount of vitamin K you eat each day could keep warfarin from working well.
How to get a steady amount of vitamin K
Foods that are medium-high to high in vitamin K
More safety tips
Follow these general rules when you take warfarin:
Advice for women
If you think you might be pregnant, call your doctor. If you are pregnant, you will take heparin during your pregnancy.
If you plan on getting pregnant, talk with your doctor. You and your doctor will decide which medicine you will take—warfarin or heparin—while trying to get pregnant.
Know the signs of bleeding
Be on the alert for signs of bleeding, and call your doctor right away if:
If you are injured, apply pressure to stop bleeding. Realize that it will take longer than you are used to for the bleeding to stop. If you can't get the bleeding to stop, call your doctor.
Test Your Knowledge
I should stop eating anything that contains vitamin K.
Now that you have read this information, you are ready to make sure you are taking your warfarin safely.
Talk with your doctor
If you have questions about this information, print it out and take it with you when you visit your doctor. You may want to mark areas or make notes where you have questions.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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