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Warfarin (Coumadin): an Overview

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Blood Clots  related image Photo: Getty Images

If you’ve been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, then it’s possible that your doctor may prescribe warfarin to help prevent blood clots from forming. Blood clots form for a number of reasons, but they tend to be common among those with heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation. Left untreated, blood clots can lead to heart attack, stroke, and even death.

Warfarin, also known as Coumadin or Jantoven, is the most commonly used anticoagulant drug used to help prevent blood clots. It’s generally prescribed to those with:

• blood clots near the heart (may result in heart attack)
• blood clots in or near the lungs (may result in pulmonary embolism)
• blood clots anywhere in your body (venous thrombosis)
• a history of hearts arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, or other heart abnormalities
• a risk of stroke

Warfarin is often referred to as a “blood-thinner” which is a misconception. The drug doesn’t thin the blood. Instead, it operates by limiting or reducing the body’s ability to form blood clots.

For many, warfarin can be a life-saving drug. But along with its powerful health benefits, it also has some dangerous side-effects and interactions that you should be aware of when taking it. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the side effects of warfarin usage include feeling cold, fatigue, pale skin, food taste changes, hair loss, and gas. While bothersome, these side effects are not life threatening. Some side effects, however, are more serious and require immediate treatment by trained medical professionals:

• excessive bleeding (includes bleeding from rectum and black stools which may indicate internal bleeding)
• chest pain
• numbness
• difficulty moving
• muscle/joint aches
• hives, a rash or itching
• swelling of the face, throat, mouth, legs, feet or hands
• nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
• flu-like symptoms
• fever
• bruising (with no injury)
• numbness
• difficulty moving
• painful erections (may last longer than 4 hours)

Other side effects from warfarin usage may include gangrene and subsequent amputation, or necrosis (tissue skin death).

Add a Comment2 Comments


Hello Mellanie,
Thank you so much for sharing the additional information along with alternative treatments. I appreciate it very much and know our readers do as well.


January 3, 2011 - 6:19pm


Good article. Here are a couple of additional resources:

1) One of my favorite resources for those on Coumadin or warfarin is at http://www.ptinr.com (here's a review I did on it a while ago: http://www.stopafib.org/newsitem.cfm/NEWSID/38 )

2) For those who don't want to deal with all the negatives and side-effects of warfarin, there is a newly-approved alternative called Pradaxa (dabigatran) - see http://www.empowher.com/atrial-fibrillation/content/pradaxa-dabigatran-approved-alternative-warfarin-reducing-atrial-fibrill

Mellanie True Hills

January 3, 2011 - 3:40pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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