Anticoagulation and Pharmacotherapy
Anticoagulation medicines – also known as blood thinners – prevent or treat blood clots. Our team is specially trained in the field of blood therapy treatment. We work with you to not only help you understand how medications help manage your condition, but also make sure you get the maximum benefit from treatments.
Anticoagulation medicines – also known as blood thinners – prevent or treat blood clots. Your doctor may prescribe them if you’ve had a heart attack or if you have an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), heart valve disease or another heart and vascular condition. When doctors use medicine to treat you – as opposed to other treatments like surgery or radiation therapy – it’s called pharmacotherapy. Anticoagulation therapy is a type of pharmacotherapy.
Anticoagulant medicines prevent blood clots from forming or growing larger in your blood vessels. They can be given in the form of a pill, an injection, or an infusion. Your doctor and pharmacist will guide you to the form is best for you.
At Providence, our doctors work closely with pharmacists to keep a close eye on your health and make sure you’re safe while taking blood thinners and other medicines. We’ll teach you about the medication you’re taking and its side effects as well as how diet, exercise and other lifestyle choices impact your health while you’re taking it.
To begin anticoagulation therapy, you’ll need a referral from your doctor. Most insurance plans cover all or part of lab testing and other services related to your treatment.
Typically, when a patient experiences excessive bleeding or blood clots, a Prothrombin Test (PT) and Partial Thromboplastin Time (PTT) test are used to help diagnose the underlying causes of the bleeding or clotting disorder. Depending on the diagnoses, a patient may be required to start Coumadin treatment and prescribed anticoagulants which help to thin the blood and prevent blood clots from reoccurring.
Coumadin is a potent treatment that thins out the blood to prevent blood clots from forming, in turn reducing the risk of conditions such as heart attack, lung clots, leg clots and other blood clot disorders. However, high levels of Coumadin can increase the risk of bleeding, and as such your levels need to be consistently monitored.
Once Coumadin treatment has been prescribed, International Normalized Ratio tests (INR) are regularly conducted to enable us to measure and monitor the balance of clotting agents in your blood.
At each appointment, the pharmacist will take a small sample of blood from the tip of your finger to test your blood’s ability to clot. You’ll get results while you’re there. They also will make sure all your prescriptions are safe and effective and not interacting with each other or with foods in your diet in a harmful way.
The pharmacist will keep your doctor updated on your health, and they will work together to make any necessary changes to your treatment. We will discuss not only medication dosages, but also potential life style changes such as diet that may also need to be adjusted, side effects to look out for, and what to do if you are injured or ill.
If you need to take blood thinners for a long time, you may use an at-home monitoring device to test your blood. Your pharmacist will let you know if you qualify.
We understand that coming in regularly for appointments isn’t always convenient. At Providence, our goal is to make your visits as quick and easy as possible. We do everything we can to make it easier for you to stay healthy. Your family members and caregivers are welcome to join the conversation so that they too can understand and help you as you journey through your treatment and care program.
You might notice minor symptoms when you begin taking blood thinners, such as your gums bleeding when you brush your teeth or your skin bruising more easily. Your pharmacist will let you know about all potential side effects and will make sure you know when you should call your doctor.
Taking blood thinners can cause iron-deficiency anemia – when your blood doesn’t have enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Through regular blood tests, your pharmacist will check for anemia and work with your doctor to adjust your medicines to prevent or treat it. You’ll also learn about iron-rich foods and dietary changes that can help prevent anemia.
At Providence, we make sure you have the information and individual attention you need to stay healthy. Our pharmacists stay in close contact with your doctor and make adjustments to your medicines to keep you feeling good.
- What is an anticoagulant?
Anticoagulants are blood thinning medications that work with the body's clotting system to prevent the formation of blood clots.
- Why does our blood clot?
Blood clots are necessary for healing. For example, when you cut your finger, blood clots form to seal the cut closed and prevent foreign bodies from entering the body and causing infection. But in some instances, blood clots can form and block the circulation of blood to various parts of the body such as the heart or veins in the legs, causing conditions such as heart attack or stroke.
- How does Coumadin work?
The liver uses Vitamin K extracted from the food we eat to make blood clotting proteins. Coumadin reduces the liver's ability to do this, thereby reducing the risk of forming blood clots.
- How does my vitamin K intake affect my treatment?
A significant increase or decrease of vitamin K in your diet significantly impacts the way in which the Coumadin treatment works. For example, an increase in your vitamin K consumption will reduce your INR. A decrease in Vitamin K consumption will increase your INR. That is why adjustments to your diet will be necessary to ensure your INR stays balanced.
- Should I avoid eating foods rich in Vitamin K?
Vitamin K, which is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, has a host of other benefits including helping to manage cholesterol, reduce the risk of vision loss and developing conditions such as osteoporosis. As such, you should not seek to eliminate vitamin K from your diet, but instead, work with our Coumadin specialists to find a balance in your vitamin K consumption.