Types of Medicine
People with bleeding disorders commonly take drugs for pain (analgesics), drugs for swelling and redness (inflammation), and drugs to keep clots from breaking apart (anti-fibrinolytic drugs). This section talks about these kinds of drugs. We have used the chemical names for most of them with the brand names after them. For example, acetaminophen is the chemical name for Tylenol®. Since there are many different brands of drugs, learn to look for the chemical name on the bottle. You can see detailed information about the drugs listed in this section on the National Library of Medicine website.
Drugs for pain (analgesics)
Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is a drug often used for pain. Aspirin is also used for pain but people with a bleeding disorder should never take it. Aspirin can hurt the inside of your stomach and cause bleeding. It can also mess up your blood clotting by making your platelets not work right.
Drugs for inflammation (anti-inflammatory drugs)
Inflammation is the way the body reacts to an injury or a change in certain body parts. Signs of inflammation are heat, swelling, redness, and pain. The drugs for inflammation are not pain-killers. They lessen pain by easing the inflammation that causes it. People with hemophilia may be given these drugs to relieve the symptoms of arthritis.
One common drug for inflammation is ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®, or Nuprin®). It can be bought without a prescription. Another drug for inflammation is indomethacin (Indocin®). Prednisone is a steroid that is commonly given for inflammation.
Some of the drugs for inflammation can make your platelets not work right. This can cause you to bleed more. If you take a drug for inflammation, write it down on your treatment calendar. If you notice an increase in bruises or bleeds, let your doctor know.
Drugs to keep clots from breaking apart (anti-fibrinolytic drugs)
These drugs prevent a fibrin clot from breaking down. The most common is Amicar® (aminocaproic acid). These drugs usually do not work in hemophilia unless factor is taken first. The factor makes the clot form. The Amicar® keeps the clot in place.
These drugs are useful when you have bleeding in your mouth. Your saliva (spit) will break down a clot. Amicar® can stop this from happening. Take Amicar® exactly as your doctor orders. If you skip a dose or stop taking it too soon, you can start bleeding again.
Do not use these drugs if you have blood in your urine. They can make you have clots in your kidneys which will damage them.
Medicine for acute pain
Acute pain is the sharp, short-lived pain you get with a bleed, headache, injury, etc. Medicine for acute pain works best if you take it when the pain starts. If you wait until you are hurting really bad, the medicine won't work as well.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is the pain medicine used most often by people with bleeding diosrders. It can ease pain and lower a fever. Generic (not brand name) acetaminophen is usually cheaper than the name brands. Read the label to be sure the acetaminophen has not been mixed with aspirin. Some of the brand names of acetaminophen are Tylenol®, Tempra®, Panadol®, Datril®, and Liquiprin®.
Narcotics are drugs that, when taken the right way, can dull the senses and ease pain. Codeine, Meperidine (Demerol®), and Morphine are examples of narcotics. Since they can be habit-forming, you have to have a prescription from your doctor to buy them. They can cause side effects like confusion, trouble breathing, slow responses, or constipation. If you take too much of a narcotic, it can kill you or cause a coma or convulsions. It is best to take a narcotic only once in a while when you have very bad pain or after surgery.
A word about codeine: Codeine may be used to treat milder pain or to reduce coughing. Do not take codeine mixed with aspirin (Empirin®, Soma®). Take acetaminophen with codeine (Tylenol with Codeine®).
Medicine for chronic pain
Chronic pain is constant and long-lasting pain such as pain from arthritis. Arthritis pain can be eased by reducing the inflammation in the joint. Your doctor has to prescribe the medicine for this. You cannot buy it off the shelf. These drugs can hurt your stomach or bowel and cause an ulcer. Since they can also affect your blood clotting, people with bleeding disorder should only take them with a doctor's advice.
Medicine when you have a cold
There is no cure for the common cold. There are many medicines sold to treat the runny nose, sore throat, coughs, and aches and pains that go with a cold. Before you take medicine, check with your doctor to make sure it is really a cold and not something else that is making you sick. Also try just resting, drinking lots of fluids, and breathing air from a humidifier before taking drugs. You may find they work just as well.
Many medicines sold for colds have aspirin in them, which you should never take if you have a bleeding disorder. Cold and allergy medicines may also contain guaifenesin. Guaifenesin can affect the way your platelets work. Robitussin® is a common cold medicine that has guaifenesin. Read the label to see if other medicines do. The National Library of Medicine has a list of medicines that contain guaifenesin. Guaifenesin can affect each person in different ways. If you notice a problem when you take medicine that has it, decide if it is worth the risk.