Also known as warfarin, Coumadin is a blood-thinning medication. Your physician may prescribe it if you are prone to blood clots or have experienced a cardiac event like stroke or heart attack. Because Coumadin is considered a very potent medication, your physician will carefully monitor your blood to ensure excess amounts of the drug are not building up in your system. Taking too much Coumadin can have adverse effects on your health.
One of the dangers of taking excess amounts of Coumadin is that it increases your risk of bleeding. This can be harmful if you experience an injury or have an ulcer that causes intestinal bleeding. Even small cuts you may receive can bleed excessively if you are taking Coumadin.
When you are taking Coumadin, your physician will monitor your blood levels on a basis determined based on your physician's recommendations -- varying from weekly to every few months. This is because Coumadin is known as a "narrow range of effectiveness" drug, meaning the drug only works at certain levels in your body. If you have a mechanical heart valve replacement or other specific conditions, your INR may be between 2.5 and 3.5. If you do not, your INR range may be between 2.0 and 3.0.
If your Coumadin levels are too high, the medication may not work as effectively. Exceeding your desired range of Coumadin can lead to adverse side effects. When your physician initiates treatment, you will get your blood checked between two and three times per week to ensure your medication levels should not be adjusted. As your INR levels stabilize, you will require less-frequent monitoring. Take the medication carefully, following your doctor's and pharmacist's instructions. If you miss a dose, do not take an additional dose to compensate -- this can result in too-high levels of Coumadin in your blood.
If your Coumadin levels are too high in your blood -- or too low as well -- you likely will not experience symptoms unless an injury that causes bleeding occurs. For this reason, it is important to regularly monitor your blood levels. Also, drinking alcohol can increase the amount of Coumadin in your body because alcohol and Coumadin are metabolized through your liver. Because the presence of alcohol will slow the breakdown of the medication, more will be absorbed in your bloodstream.