Warfarin is an anticoagulant (“anti” means against and “coagulation” means clotting). It interferes with your body’s clotting process and is therefore used to treat and prevent clots in the veins, arteries, lungs and heart. Warfarin is the generic name and Coumadin® is the brand name of this medicine.
Blood clotting is a complex process that involves enzymes called “clotting factors.” The normal formation of clotting factors happens in the liver and requires vitamin K. Warfarin reduces the formation of these clotting factors by interfering with the normal action of vitamin K in your body.As a result, normal clotting occurs at a much slower rate.
Warfarin can begin to reduce blood clotting within 24 hours of the first dose, but it takes 10 – 14 days for warfarin to have its full effect. Everyone is different and will require different doses of warfarin to slow the clotting process to the same point. How much warfarin you need is based primarily on how your liver works, but is also influenced by your other medicines, what you eat and your lifestyle. Once your individual dose of warfarin is determined, it will likely need to be adjusted from time to time to make sure you are getting the right amount. This is determined by a blood test called the INR that your doctor will order for you.
Warfarin is taken once per day. It does not matter what time of day you take warfarin, but in order to be consistent, you should take it at about the same time each day. Warfarin can be taken with or without food, and it can be taken at the same time as most other medications.
You should always take warfarin exactly as directed by your doctor or anticoagulation provider—do not take more or less. If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember, as long as it is the same day as your missed dose. Generally, if you miss a dose entirely or accidentally take a double dose warfarin, call your anticoagulation provider for instructions.
Make sure all of your doctors, dentists, surgeons or other medical providers have a complete and updated list of your medications as warfarin can interact with many other medicines. Ask your doctor or anticoagulation provider before taking any over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication as these types of medicines can increase your risk of bleeding.
Check back soon… upcoming blog topics include:
- What you need to know about vitamin K
- What is the INR?
- Possible side effects with warfarin
- OTC medicine interactions with warfarin
- Common prescription medication interactions with warfarin