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Anticoagulation Drugs FAQ’s

What is an anticoagulation drug?

These are a set of medications which are designed to help people who are at risk for developing blood clots. The premise behind the medications is they “thin” the blood to avoid over-clotting.  These drugs may reduce the risk of pulmonary embolism, myocardial infarction, deep vein thrombosis and ischemic strokes. They may also help reduce the risk of other heart-related disorders.

What Are the Most Common Anticoagulants?

Currently, the most commonly prescribed anticoagulant drugs include Heparin and Coumadin (warfarin). While there are others on the market, these two are the most frequently used drugs.

Which Patients Are Most Frequently Prescribed an Anticoagulant?

A physician may prescribe an anticoagulant drug for those who have heart disease or for patients who have circulatory problems. In addition, patients with abnormal heartbeats, those who have undergone heart valve surgery and those with heart defects may also be prescribed an anticoagulant.

Are There Benefits to Anticoagulants?

Yes, there are certainly benefits. An anticoagulation medication can help prevent blood clots and the serious complications that a patient can suffer after a blood clot including stroke and other heart-related diseases.

Are There Risks to Anticoagulants?

There are numerous risks associated with the use of anticoagulants. Because an anticoagulant thins your blood, it can cause bleeding problems, pain, headaches and other problems. Patients who are suffering swelling, blood in urine or stools or purple discolorations in their toes or any “black” discoloration should contact their doctor immediately.

What Tests Should I Be Having While Taking Anticoagulants?

Physicians will run a test called “ INR Test” on all patients who are taking an anticoagulation drug. These tests will be run frequently when the anticoagulants are first prescribed and may be run less frequently as the patient’s body adjusts to the medication. Any changes to the medication will also result in more frequent testing. The name of the test is sometimes referred to as Prothrombin time (PT).

What Happens if I Miss a Dose of an Anticoagulant?

If a dose of an anticoagulant is missed, patients should avoid doubling up. If the missed dose is noticed in sufficient time, patients may take the missed dose and then resume their normal dosing schedules.

Are There Over-The-Counter Drugs I Should Avoid on Anticoagulants?

Yes there are several drugs that should be avoided. Patients who are taking an anticoagulation drug should avoid taking NSAID pain relievers. These include ibuprofen, aspirin and products that contain ibuprofen of aspirin. Some of the common over-the-counter drugs that may contain aspirin and ibuprofen include cough preparations, Pepto Bismol and Alka Seltzer.

How Will My Medications Act With An Anticoagulant?

Antibiotic drugs like erythromycin may result in increased INR which would warrant a reduction in anticoagulation drugs. Drugs like phenobarbital may require a patient to take a higher dose anticoagulation drug and other drugs like Dilantin may require a change up or down. As with any prescription medication, patients should discuss all medications, dietary supplements and over-the-counter drugs with their physician. Some studies have indicated diabetes medications may also interact unfavorably with some anticoagulant drugs.

Do I Have to Modify My Diet While Taking Anticoagulants?

Some foods have high levels of Vitamin K which could have an impact on anticoagulants. Food like kale, lettuce, brussell sprouts and other dark green, leafy vegetables as well as some beans may need to be limited while on anticoagulants. Your doctor may also recommend you limit your consumption of some foods as well as alcohol.

What Should I Do If I Have a Dental Appointment?

Anyone who has a dental appointment should notify their dentist they are taking an anticoagulation medication. If the dentist recommends you suspend the drug, be sure to speak with your physician first. This applies if you are undergoing any surgical procedure as well.

What Do I Need to Know About Exercise and Anticoagulants?

While it is always a good idea to maintain a healthy exercise routine, those who are undergoing any type of anticoagulation treatment should be sure to avoid contact sports. Any sport that causes an increased likelihood of accidents or bleeding should be avoided as well.

What Else Should I Know About Anticoagulants?

Patients who have been prescribed an anticoagulant drug should never stop taking their medication without consulting with their physician first. This is particularly important if you are at higher risk for developing life-threatening complications due to a blood clot.

What If My Doctor Did Not Explain The Risks of Anticoagulants?

Every patient has a right to know how the drugs they are taking could affect them. If you have suffered an adverse effect, the first thing you need to do is consult with your health care practitioner. If you feel that you were nor properly notified of the risks versus the potential rewards of any anticoagulants, you may wish to consult with a personal injury attorney who understands anticoagulants and the risks they pose.

Are There Some Patients More Prone to Anticoagulant Risks?

Yes; there have been studies that indicate that patients over the age of 70, those with liver disease and diabetics may be at greater risk for side-effects from anticoagulant drugs. Any indication you have suffered an adverse reaction should be immediately reported to your doctor. If you have lost a loved one due to complications from an anticoagulant, a personal injury attorney may be able to help determine if you have a civil lawsuit against the prescriber.

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