Blood thinners can save your life when you have DVT. They all have pluses and minuses, talk to your doctor about which one is right for you.
Coumadin vs. Newer Blood Thinners
The most commonly used blood thinner is warfarin. It’s also known by its brand name, Coumadin. It needs a lot of monitoring by your doctor to make sure you're getting the right amount in a dose. Newer blood thinners do not.
“Coumadin is difficult to manage,” says Molly Cooke, MD, of the University of California San Francisco. “If you’re on Coumadin, you may have to have your blood tested daily, weekly, or monthly.”
There is a long list of foods and drugs that you must avoid when you take Coumadin. These foods and drugs can interact with Coumadin and cause unwanted effects.
Newer blood thinners include Eliquis, Pradaxa, and Xarelto. They don't require frequent blood tests. Plus, they have far fewer food and drug interactions.
But Coumadin is much less expensive than newer blood thinners.
All blood thinners cause you to bleed more easily, so if you cut yourself or require emergency surgery, it would be difficult to stop the bleeding right away. You can get a shot of vitamin K to quickly reverse the effects of Coumadin, but there is no fast-acting antidote for the newer blood thinners.
Talk to your doctor about your lifestyle and personal risk factors when deciding which type of medicine to choose.
Keep These Tips in Mind If You Take Any Blood Thinner
- Be more careful when exercising or being active. “Even a trivial cut is going to bleed a lot on these medications,” Cooke says.
- Wear gloves when using sharp tools like scissors, knives, and gardening tools.
- Switch to an electric razor.
- Wear shoes as often as possible -- always when mowing the lawn or gardening.
- Use a soft toothbrush and waxed dental floss to clean your teeth.
- If your doctor says you can do things like biking or skiing, wear a helmet. Helmet or no helmet though, “Tackle football is out,” says Natalie Evans, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet in case you are in an accident and are not able to talk.
- Keep a note in your wallet or purse that lists the medications you take.
- If you fall or receive a hard blow, call your doctor or visit the hospital right away, even if there’s no blood. A bruise anywhere on your body means you are bleeding beneath the skin. And a head injury can cause bleeding beneath the skull.
- Make sure any doctor who prescribes medication to you knows you are taking a blood thinner. Ask them to look up the drug interactions. For Coumadin especially, the list is long and may be hard to remember without looking.
- Don’t take over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, or supplements without first checking with your doctor. Your blood thinner may interact with these as well. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can make you bleed more. Even common medicines like Pepto-Bismol can cause bleeding.
- Ask your doctor if it’s safe to drink alcohol. An occasional drink should be fine, but it’s best to double check.
- Ask your doctor what you should do if you accidentally skip a dose of your blood thinner.
- Do not double up on doses.
- If you can't eat for several days or have vomiting or diarrhea that lasts more than a day, call your doctor. You may not be getting the right dose of medicine.