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Taking Metformin? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Metformin is often the first drug prescribed to people who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Taken orally, metformin helps to control your blood sugar levels. Metformin is often used in combination with other drugs to treat diabetes.

Without the proper long-term management of diabetes, it can cause serious health complications. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through the proper use of medications such as metformin and making appropriate lifestyle changes. If you’d like to learn about some of the other medications used to treat type  2 diabetes, please click here.

How Metformin Works for Type 2 Diabetics

Metformin is prescribed for type 2 diabetes because it can help control blood sugar spikes. So, how does this diabetes drug do this?

man checks blood sugar levels after taking metformin

Metformin falls under a classification of drugs known as biguanides. The drug reduces the amount of glucose (sugar) your liver produces and how much your body absorbs. Thus, metformin will increase the effect that insulin has on your body.

In addition to increasing the body’s insulin sensitivity, patients often report a drop in their cholesterol levels. Metformin can impact your appetite, which results in fewer calories consumed and weight loss. Losing excess weight will also improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin.

Please note that metformin should not be solely relied on to treat high blood sugar levels. Diet and exercise are crucial to proper management of your diabetes. This combined with a stable dosage of metformin can be very effective.

What are the Side Effects Associated with Metformin?

As with any drug, metformin does come with the risk of side effects. These can range from mild to severe. Less severe side effects usually subside within a few days to a couple weeks. If your side effects persist or get worse, alert your healthcare provider imediately.

Metformin can cause a range of mild side effects such as:

  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Intestinal pain

More serious side effects caused by metformin include:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Lactic Acidosis

Low blood sugar is serious because it cause unconsciousness and even seizures! Untreated cases often lead to permanent brain damage. If you are taking metformin, keep an eye out for the following signs of low blood sugar:

  • Drowsiness
  • Hunger
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating

Another serious side effect of metformin is lactic acidosis. This is a life threatening condition caused by a buildup of lactic acid in the blood stream. Anyone suffering from lactic acidosis will require immediate medical care.

Tell-tale symptoms of lactic acidosis include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slow or irregular heart rate
  • Dizziness

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. If it is a medical emergency, call 911!

Some Important Considerations for Metformin

There are a few other things to you should know if you’re going to be taking metformin. Alcohol, vitamins and other medications will interact with metformin in your system. This can produce negative side effects.

metformin pills used for lowering blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes

Taking certain medications in combination with metformin may increase the level of medication in your body. This can put you at greater risk of suffering side effects. These drugs include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Pain relievers
  • Drugs for stomach issues
  • Topiramate
  • Glaucoma medication
  • Drugs for regulating heart rhythm
  • Malaria medication

Certain medications can make metformin less effective and should not be taken at the same time. These are:

  • Estrogen
  • Tuberculosis medication
  • Thyroid medication
  • Hormones
  • Phenytoin
  • Phenothiazines
  • Cholesterol medication
  • Blood pressure medication

Alcohol

Diabetes research studies have also shown that alcohol can cause adverse effects with metformin. Drinking alcohol in combination with metformin can put you at risk of lactic acidosis. The use of alcohol with metformin can also cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels.

Dosage

Another consideration when taking metformin is your dosage. This can vary from person to person depending on your age and how severe your diabetes is. Your doctor is a great source of information if you have additional questions about your dosage and proper use of metformin.

Living with type 2 diabetes can be a difficult and daunting task. Fortunately, there are several effective treatment options out there, including metformin. There are also diabetes clinical trials, like the ones we are conducting at our research center in Birmingham, Alabama. If you’d to learn more about how diabetes clinical trials work, please click here.

If you want to make a change in your treatment plan, such as taking metformin or stopping it, be sure to consult your doctor first. On top of that, you should also check out some of our other diabetes blog posts.

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