Monday, November 19, 2007

Blood thinners - life saving medications

Medications to thin the blood (anti-coagulants) are a fact of life for many people. These medications are very serious drugs – too much and it becomes too difficult for the blood to clot, too little and it the drugs can’t do their job. If you are receiving injections, it is most likely that you are getting heparin; if you are taking pills, this is warfarin (Coumadin®)

Who has to take a blood thinner? Many people have to take them, but the most common reasons are if you have had:

- a stroke caused by a blood clot (not caused by a bleed)
- any type of clot in the blood system that did or may have caused a stroke or a pulmonary embolism
- a joint replacement
- a heart valve replacement

One of the most important issues when taking a blood thinner is to be sure you’re taking the right dose. For this reason, you need to have frequent blood tests to measure how quickly your blood is clotting; your dosage is often adjusted following these tests, particularly when you first begin taking the medication. The problem is, this can be really inconvenient for a lot of people – taking the time to go for these blood tests. That’s why this article was interesting: Home testing of blood thinner levels superior.

Because of the seriousness of warfarin, it's important that you take certain precautions while taking it. First of all, you should make sure that emergency personnel know you are taking warfarin in case of emergency; this means wearing a MedicAlert® bracelet, keeping a card in your wallet, and making sure that the people around you know that you are taking the medication. This is particularly important because if you have an accident at work or out with friends, like falling on the stairs, cut yourself, or break a limb, for example, your blood may not clot as quickly as it should and could cause serious problems.

You may experience some slight bleeding, such as when you are brushing your teeth or a menstrual period heavier than you are used to; however, if you experience any of the following, contact your clinic, healthcare professional, or go to the emergency room immediately (copied from AHRQ.gov):

· Red, dark, coffee or cola colored urine
· Bowel movements that are red or look like tar
· Too much bleeding from the gums or nose.
· Throwing up coffee colored or bright red substance.
· Coughing up red-tinged secretions
· Severe pain (such as headache or stomachache).
· Sudden appearance of bruises for no reason.
· Excessive menstrual bleeding.
· A cut that will not stop bleeding within 10 minutes
· A serious fall
· Hitting your head


The AHRQ.gov document lists many issues to keep in mind, such as how to prevent injury, using other medications, and side effects, to name a few.

Warfarin and heparin are life savers, but they have to be used with caution.

News for Today:

Retraining promotes physical fitness in seniors: study
Home testing of blood thinner levels superior
FDA Approves Mircera: First Renal Anemia Treatment In The US With Monthly Maintenance Dosing

2 comments:

doc said...

Very informative post. Be sure to tell your doctor about any natural/herbal products since some of them have interactions that can alter the effect of these drugs.

Marijke Durning said...

Excellent point Doc. Thank you for bringing that up.