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Published on February 07, 2014

Insulin and Coumadin: Side effects

Patient safety: What you need to know if you take insulin or Coumadin.

pillsIf you or a loved one has been prescribed Coumadin or insulin, it’s important to be educated about these powerful drugs. And that’s why Mercy Home Health is here to help.

Coumadin is a type of blood thinner given to select patients who have heart arrhythmias, a history of blood clots, or are at risk for a blood clot following surgery. As with any blood thinner, the risk is a patient’s blood can become too thin, which can be life threatening, explains Donna Raziano, MD, MBA, FACP, chief medical officer of Mercy Home Health and Mercy LIFE.

A second high-risk medication is insulin, given to type 1 and type 2 diabetics. Prescribed insulin is very similar to the natural insulin produced by your own body and it can be extremely effective in treating high blood sugar.
However, the No. 1 side effect of taking insulin is the risk of low blood sugar. When a patient’s blood sugar falls below a certain level, it can result in diabetic shock.

“Generally, the amount of insulin your doctor prescribes will be good for you,” explains Raziano. “But one day you don’t feel well – you skip breakfast and lunch, but still take your insulin. That’s when your blood sugar can go dangerously low.”

When someone is prescribed either of these drugs, Mercy Home Health nurses carefully explain the medication and explain the importance of monitoring.

“Mercy Home Health nurses love educating patients,” says Raziano. “It’s an important job to keep patients safe.”

If you take Coumadin:

  • Talk to your doctor: Make sure you are prescribed the appropriate amount
  • Tell your doctor if you have a history of falls or are falling more recently
  • Get your blood tested frequently; If you are new to Coumadin or were just released from the hospital, Mercy Home Health nurses can check your blood right at home
  • Take your Coumadin at the same time every day, preferably at dinnertime
  • Make sure people know you are on a blood thinner

If you take insulin:

  • Remember to always check your blood sugar, especially as you age. The amount of insulin you need now may be very different than the amount you needed 5 years ago.
  • If you have a change in your prescribed insulin or a change in your diet, check your blood sugar more frequently
  • Make sure people around you know that you are on insulin; consider wearing a medical ID bracelet
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