Anticoagulants, often called blood thinners, are medicines that slow
the clotting of blood. They do not actually thin the blood but increase the
time it takes a blood clot to form. Anticoagulants help prevent existing blood
clots from becoming larger and may be used to prevent deep vein blood clots or
to treat certain blood vessel, heart, or lung conditions.
Safety tips for anticoagulants
Take the medicine at the same time each
Check with your doctor before using nonprescription drugs,
especially ones that contain aspirin or other
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as
ibuprofen or naproxen).
Talk to your doctor before taking any
vitamins, supplements, or other natural products.
Tell any new
doctors that you are taking medicine that affects how your blood
Before any surgery or test (such as a colonoscopy), talk to
your doctor about whether you need to stop taking your anticoagulant for a
short time before the procedure. Stopping the anticoagulant helps prevent extra
bleeding during the surgery or test. Your doctor will tell you when it is safe
to start taking your medicine again.
Be alert for signs of
bleeding, and call the doctor immediately if any of the following symptoms
Blood in urine, or stools that are red or
that look like tar
Bleeding from the nose or gums, or spitting up
New, excessive, or prolonged vaginal
Frequent, severe bruising or tiny red or purple spots on
To find out how often you should have blood
tests, talk to your doctor about the medicines you are taking.
When you have a deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), you need to treat it to avoid a life-threatening complication: a pulmonary embolism.
A pulmonary embolism (PE) usually happens when a blood clot in the leg breaks away, travels to the lungs, and blocks a lung artery. It can damage the lung and other organs and lead to low oxygen levels in the blood. It can even be fatal.
Get regular blood tests to ensure that you are
taking the right amount of medicine.
Eat a balanced diet. Don't
suddenly change your intake of vitamin K-rich foods, such as broccoli, brussels
sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, lettuce, spinach, and some vegetable juices. It is
most important to keep a consistent level of vitamin K foods in your diet.
Vitamin K can interfere with the action of warfarin, making it more likely that
your blood will clot.
Avoid excessive use of alcohol. If you drink,
do so only in moderation. Alcohol may increase the effect of
Don't use tobacco of any kind.
If your other
doctors prescribe medicines for you, tell them that you are taking
Talk to your doctor before taking any vitamins,
supplements, or other natural products. Do not take ginkgo biloba or garlic
while using warfarin.
Avoid activities that have a high risk for
injury, such as skiing, football, or other contact sports. If you are taking
warfarin, an injury could result in excessive bleeding.
Wear a seat
belt anytime you are traveling in a car.
Preventing minor bleeding while taking anticoagulants
You may find it helpful to use the following items to lower the risk of
Call your doctor if you are not sure what to do if you missed a
dose of anticoagulant.
Your doctor can tell you exactly what to do
so you don't take too much or too little anticoagulant. Then you will be as
safe as possible.
But here are some general rules for what to do if
you miss a dose.
If you remember it in the same day, take the
missed dose. Then go back to your regular schedule.
If it is the
next day, or almost time to take the next dose, do not
take the missed dose. Do not double the dose to make up for the missed one. At
your next regularly scheduled time, take your normal anticoagulant
If you miss your dose for 2 or more days, call your doctor.
Do not double the dose in any one day to make up for a
Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Richard D. Zorowitz, MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
January 8, 2009
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
January 08, 2009
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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