Warfarin (Coumadin)

What is it?
Warfarin (Coumadin) is an anticoagulant. It is a medicine that prevents harmful blood clots from forming. Warfarin (Coumadin) lengthens the time it normally takes for your blood to clot.

How Will Your Physician Monitor Your Therapy?
Warfarin (Coumadin) therapy is monitored by the use of blood samples to measure the Prothrombin Time (PT) and International Normalized Ratio (INR). The PT is a measure of how long it takes blood to clot. The INR is a ratio of the patient's PT and a PT that is considered average for a patient not on anticoagulants. The target INR may be different for individual patients, depending upon the reason for taking Warfarin ( Coumadin).

The blood tests will be obtained on scheduled days. In the beginning, the PT/INR tests are scheduled more frequently, but as the therapy becomes more stable the time between blood tests lengthens. The dose of Warfarin ( Coumadin) is adjusted based on the results of the INR. 

How Often Will You Have Your Blood Checked?
When you first start taking Warfarin ( Coumadin), you will be tested frequently as your physician adjusts the dosage for you. After your dosage is regulated, you will be checked less frequently.

When Should You Contact Your Family Physician?
Since bleeding is the most serious effect of Coumadin, you should NOTIFY YOUR FAMILY PHYSICIAN IMMEDIATELY with any of the following conditions:

  • black bowel movements;
  • pink or red urine;
  • vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds;
  • excessive nosebleeds;
  • coughing up blood;
  • unusually heavy menstrual bleeding;
  • unusual bleeding from gums or cuts.

You should notify your family physician if you develop severe diarrhea, or become pregnant.

What Directions Should You Follow When Taking Warfarin ( Coumadin)?

  •  Warfarin ( Coumadin) should be taken AT THE SAME TIME every day to ensure the proper blood level. DO NOT TAKE AN EXTRA DOSE if you forget to take the medicine; contact your physician for instructions.
  • DO NOT USE ASPIRIN or any medication containing aspirin while taking Warfarin ( Coumadin), unless instructed by your physician to take one aspirin a day. Tylenol may be used for minor aches, pain, and headaches.
  • TAKE ONLY THE DRUGS PRESCRIBED by your physician. Many over-the-counter medications can alter the effects of Warfarin ( Coumadin).
  • IF DENTAL WORK OR SURGERY IS PLANNED, tell the dentist or surgeon that you are on Warfarin ( Coumadin) ahead of time.
  • CARRY IDENTIFICATION, such as a Medic-Alert bracelet, stating that you are taking Warfarin ( Coumadin).
  • AVOID ACTIVITY AND SPORTS that could cause you to become injured. Also, be careful to avoid cutting yourself.
  • DRINKING ALCOHOL to excess while taking Warfarin ( Coumadin) could cause bleeding. You should not drink on a regular basis or consume more than one or two drinks at a time.
  • SUDDEN CHANGE IN EATING HABITS can affect your response to Warfarin ( Coumadin). Maintain a balanced diet based on moderation and variety.

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