Coumadin is prescribed to prevent clots for people with conditions that put them at increased risk. This includes those with rheumatic heart disease, atrial fibrillation and after insertion of prosthetic heart valves. Coumadin is sometimes referred to as a “blood thinner”, although it does not actually make the blood thinner.
Warfarin helps to prevent blood clots from forming or from getting bigger, but it does not dissolve blood clots. Coumadin comes in the form of a pill, as does the generic Warfarin, and a valid prescription is required. The generic alternative is not manufactured by the company that makes the brand product.
Taking Coumadin can prevent the development of a blood clot or stop clots from becoming larger by reducing platelet aggregation in your blood. This action decreases the risk of a clot plugging vital arteries or veins that feed your heart and other organs, such as the brain and lungs. Coumadin’s task is to break up the fibrin, a thread-like protein that forms with blood cells to create a clot that is difficult to break down unassisted and by partially blocking the reuse of vitamin K in your liver. Vitamin K is needed to make clotting factors that help the blood to clot and prevent bleeding.
Blood clots normally form to stop bleeding that has occurred as a result of injury to your tissues. However, sometimes a blood clot can form abnormally within the blood vessels. This is known as a thrombus and can be dangerous because the clot may detach and travel in the bloodstream. The clot may become lodged in a blood vessel, blocking the blood supply to a vital organ such as the heart, brain or lungs. The clot may also detach and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism or to the brain, causing a stroke.
Your doctor may also prescribe Coumadin to prevent or treat deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is the formation of a blood clot in the deep veins of the body, usually in places where blood flow is slower, such as the leg. You may be at greater risk to develop DVT if you are immobilized for long periods of time or if you have had recent surgery.
Inform your doctor before taking Coumadin if you have any bleeding disorders, clotting deficiency, stomach or intestinal ulcers, cancer, or a recent head injury as your situation could be made worse by taking blood thinners. Tell your doctor of other medications you are taking including aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen as they can also affect the clotting process.
Ask your doctor if Coumadin is safe to take while you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant as you may be advised to try a different blood thinning medication that can be injected just under your skin (subcutaneously) by a doctor to avoid risks to your unborn baby.
You should avoid any activities that may increase your risk of injuries or bleeding while taking Coumadin. If you are scheduled for any dental or surgical procedures, inform the medical staff you are taking Coumadin as you may be asked to stop the drug short term until the procedure is completed.