It is not uncommon for medical terminology to make it into the common vernacular without most of us having any idea what it means. Consider for example the term EKG. Hopefully, you’ve learned a little something about EKGs from following along with this blog, but there was probably a long period of time where you knew little more than what you learned on the show Grey’s Anatomy. There are so many examples of this phenomenon, and we find the same is true of prescription drugs. We’re bombarded with advertisements for prescription drugs all the time which leads many patients to assume more expertise on the subject than they truly have. One drug in particular that patients have heard of but don’t know much about is called Coumadin.
Coumadin is used to prevent blood clots in patients who are at risk of stroke or heart attack. Medications like these are commonly referred to as blood thinners, but Coumadin doesn’t actually thin the blood. Coumadin is what’s known as an anticoagulant and its primary purpose is to make it a little more difficult for blood to clot. Coagulation occurs frequently in the body. Anytime you get a cut on your skin and the blood scabs what is actually occurring is coagulation. In some situations, coagulation is a critical function, and other situations can be very dangerous.
Drugs like Coumadin keep the blood from coagulating within the veins and arteries. When these blood clots form they tend to block the flow of blood through the body’s primary blood passageways and can eventually block them completely. But what happens if a blood clot restricts blood flow through your veins and arteries? Your entire body depends on your heart to pump oxygenated blood to your muscles, organs, and other tissues. When the pathways are restricted your heart has to work harder and under more pressure to force the blood through the body. A Coumadin prescription helps a patient release that undue pressure by stopping the blood from ever clotting in the first place.
Who benefits from Coumadin?
Any patients who have preexisting blood clotting disorders or previous dealings with deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism may be eligible for a Coumadin prescription. Unfortunately, many people don’t find out they need this drug until they’ve already experienced the negative side effects of these potentially dangerous conditions.
Is Coumadin the same as Warfarin?
If you’ve heard of Warfarin, you may be thinking that it is similar to the drug we’re describing here. In fact, Warfarin is a general term to describe anticoagulant drugs while Coumadin is a brand name of the medication.
Keeping Yourself Safe Using Coumadin
As mentioned before, the purpose of Coumadin is to slow the body’s natural clotting tendency. This doesn’t mean you’ll no longer be able to clot at all. In fact, patients will undergo routine blood tests to ensure that their blood is still clotting at a safe rate. However, the inherent risk of a drug like this is that your blood may not clot when you need it to. Simple injuries to the skin or even dental procedures can pose a risk to patients whose blood won’t naturally clot. Be sure to alert your cardiologist if you have upcoming procedures, if you become pregnant, or if you sustain an injury that isn’t healing properly.
Beware of Drug Interactions
Your cardiologist will review all of this information with you in-depth, but it’s important to know that your diet and lifestyle can have an impact on how your body processes your Coumadin prescription. For example, consuming alcohol can affect the way your body processes Coumadin. If you intend to continue consuming alcohol it’s important that you do so in a limited amount and speak to your cardiologist about it first. There are also some foods that interfere with Coumadin, before you make any significant adjustments to your diet be sure to consult your doctor.
Call Your Doctor With Concerns
Once you’ve started your Coumadin regimen there are some side effects to keep your eye out for. Of course, unstoppable bleeding is the first thing on the list, but other symptoms include severe headaches or dizziness, fall or head injury, or expelling blood in inappropriate places like from a cough, in your stool, or while vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms, call a health care provider immediately.
Coumadin is just one more excellent example of a simple drug that improves the quality of life for many who take it. If you or someone you know has suffered from blood clots and are interested in learning more about Coumadin or other prescription solutions, contact our office today. You don’t have to live in fear, our team can help you find the resources you need to live confidently.