Going off my Coumadin scares the heck out of me. The blood thinner was prescribed to me back in 2001 following my stroke. I always knew there was a risk of bleeding while taking Coumadin, but the fear of having another stroke outweighed that risk for me. My doctor told me I had thick blood and would have to be on Coumadin the rest of my life. Okay, I thought, case closed, move on and live a happy life taking blood thinners. But in the back of my mind I always wondered why I couldn’t just take an aspirin. Nobody in my family has ever had a stroke. I never had any risk factors either. Looking back it all seems like a fluke; a blood clot near my brain appeared for no reason, I guess. All I knew is that I didn’t want it to happen again. Then, I moved back home to Oklahoma and that’s when my treatment was questioned.
I found a new doctor who is the head of the stroke center in Oklahoma City. At our first meeting, he asked me about my condition, basic stuff. I explained what happened to me while he studied my health records. He asked me why I was still on Coumadin and then threw out a bunch of health terms about my blood. I then realized telling him I had “thick” blood wasn’t enough. My goodness, I didn’t even know what I had. I figured it didn’t matter all these years. I just relied on my doctor and that was that. But what he told me was, from what he read, I didn’t have any signs of inherited coagulation. What? What the heck did that mean, I thought. So I asked him and looked it up later to confirm. Coagulation is the complex process by which the blood forms clots. This I knew. But what I didn’t know was if this condition I had was inherited. I always assumed not, because like I said earlier, I had no known family history of blood clotting or strokes. Genetic thrombophilia is an inherited abnormality that leads to an increased tendency to blood clotting. There are several ways to treat thrombophilia with medications including aspirin, heparin, low molecular weight heparin and Coumadin. My doctor told me if my condition is inherited, he would keep me on Coumadin, probably forever. But, if my condition is not inherited, he would put me on aspirin. He told me prolonged use of Coumadin in an otherwise healthy person increases the risk of spontaneous bleeding and death. Nice. I take medication to prevent dying from a blood clot only to increase my risk of bleeding to death.
So, my next step is to see a blood specialist, who will do an array of blood tests to confirm or deny my blood clotting status. Inherited or not. I hope not, then I could just take an aspirin everyday. I’ll keep you all posted, as my appointment with the blood doctor is next week.
And just for the record, my old doctor wasn’t wrong. I do have thick blood. Now, I just need to find out why.
Deanne Stein wrote about heart disease as a patient expert for HealthCentral.