Coumadin, or Warfarin as it is also commonly known, is a medication in the anticoagulant family and for that reason, it is often labeled a blood thinner which is technically inaccurate. Coumadin is not actually a blood thinner as it does not actually thin the blood. Instead coumadin works to prevent blood clots and prevent existing blood clots from getting larger. Coumadin is used to treat blood clots that may have formed in the veins, arteries, lungs and heart but it is also sometimes prescribed to patients who may be at risk of developing blood clots due to an illness, trauma or a surgical procedure.
What Are Common Coumadin Side Effects?
Studies have shown coumadin side effects are rare and often not severe enough to require additional medical treatment. In fact, side effects occur in only 1% of patients taking this medication. As with any medication though, the chance of side effects is still present. If you experience coumadin side effects that are severe, prolonged or difficult to manage on your own, consult your doctor. Those side effects may be able to be treated or, in rare cases, another medication will be offered as a substitute. The most common coumadin side effects include:
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Decreased tolerance to cold
- Reduced appetite
If any of the above listed symptoms are having an especially negative impact on your day to day life or are troublesome enough that you have trouble completing normal day to day tasks, consult with your doctor. If immediate help is needed but you are unable to get an appointment with your doctor, your pharmacist may also be able to help. Again, as with any medication, there are sometimes severe coumadin side effects that will require immediate medical attention. These rare but severe side effects include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Bleeding gums
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Sudden, unexpected weakness
- Bruising with no obvious cause
- Discoloration in the urine (brown or pink)
- Numbness is the face, hands or feet
- Unexplained swelling or pain
- Unexplained nosebleeds
- Unexpectedly heavy menstrual flow
Most of these side effects are pretty self explanatory but a word is needed about excessive bleeding. This specifically refers to unexpectedly heavy bleeding from a count or wound with the bleeding continuing longer than one would expect. If this occurs, see a doctor right away. More severe side effects require the immediate suspension of use of the medication and immediate, emergency medical attention. These side effects include:
- Indications of an allergic reaction (swelling in the face or throat, skin rashes or hives, or labored breathing)
- Blood in urine, stool or vomit
- Blood when coughing
- Visible blood or bleeding in the eyes
- Indications of liver damage (yellow colored skin, yellow color in the eyes, dark urine, light colored stool)
All of the above symptoms are indicative of serious side effects that could become worse – even life threatening – if not treated. If you experience any of the above symptoms you must see a doctor immediately, even if you must make a trip to the emergency room.
How Can I Reduce the Chances of Coumadin Side Effects?
Some side effects will just naturally occur in some of the people that take this medication. That’s true of any medication. There are ways to reduce the chances of suffering come some of the more severe side effects one may experience while taking this medication. These measures will also help you ensure you get the most benefit out of the medication.
- Take your medication as directed by your doctor.
- Take extra care to avoid cutting or injuring yourself.
- Stay away from alcohol.
- Avoid starting a diet without first consulting with your doctor.
- Avoid making sudden or drastic changes to your diet without first consulting your doctor.
- Stay away from dangerous activities that could result in injury.
- Make sure you store your medication properly (room temperature, away from light and moisture – keep out of the reach of children).
Taking your medication as directed by your doctor does not solely mean taking the dose you’ve been prescribed. It also means not doubling up on your medication if you miss a dose. It isn’t always easy to remember those little pills you’ve been given so missed doses are bound to happen. Talk to your doctor about what you should do in the event of a missed dosed when you are first given your prescription. This helps you prepare for what you should do if you forget to take a pill. If you are already on the medication and have forgotten, contact your doctor or your pharmacist. They’ll be able to tell you exactly what you should do.