What Is Metformin Medication Used For and Its Side Effects?
Metformin is a diabetic drug which is prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes. This drug is often used in combination with other drugs to control the levels of blood sugar in diabetic people. People who have type 2 diabetes usually have high levels of blood sugar because of a problem with insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps to regulate the level of blood sugar in the body. However, type 2 diabetic patients cannot properly control blood sugar levels, because their body doesn’t make enough insulin or respond properly to it. When diabetes is not properly managed, it can lead to long term health complications such as stroke and heart attack. These complications can be prevented by taking a diabetic drug such as metformin and making changes to your lifestyle.
What is Metformin?
It is a prescription drug that belongs to a class of medications known as biguanides. This drug is not used as a cure for diabetes, but rather helps to reduce the level of blood sugar to the appropriate range. Metformin is usually prescribed as part of a treatment that includes exercise and diet. This medication may also be used in combination with other drugs. This drug works by inhibiting the production of glucose by the liver and how much it gets absorbed by the body. Hence the drug increases your body sensitivity to insulin. Therefore, glucose will leave your bloodstream and enter the cells. In addition to increasing your insulin sensitivity, this drug decreases glucose absorption from the intestine. Patients who use this drug have also reported a decrease in their cholesterol levels, which in turn leads to weight loss. When there is excessive weight loss, it improves your body’s insulin sensitivity. However, it remains unclear how this drug helps patients to lose weight. The main theory is that this medication reduces your appetite which leads to less calories being consumed. It also changes how your body uses and stores fat.
The dose of metformin will vary depending on the medical condition of patients. Make sure you take this medicine as it is prescribed by your doctor. You should never increase or decrease your doses without your doctor.
The starting dose is 500 mg that should be taken twice per day with morning and evening meals. However, your doctor may change your dosage so that you can achieve the best results out of this medication. In case you get a dose that is greater than 2000 mg per day, you will need to take it three times per day. However, the dose cannot exceed 2500 mg per day.
If you missed a dose of this medication you should take it as soon as you remember. Avoid taking a double dose to make up for the missed dose. If the next dose is near and you missed the last one, you should skip the missed dose and continue with your dosing as usual.
This medicine should be kept in a closed container at room temperature. Make sure the drug stays away from moisture or heat. Also, avoid freezing the drug. Keep the medicine out of children reach, preferably in a locked cupboard that is one and a half meters above the ground. Ask your doctor how you should dispose outdated medicine.
Who should not take Metformin
People with severe kidney problems should not take metformin. This is because when the kidney doesn’t function properly, it leads to an increased risk of lactic acidosis. Your doctor will conduct tests on your kidneys before you begin taking this diabetes medicine. If you have severe liver problems, you should not take the drug. Normally, your liver clears lactic acid from the body. In case of severe liver problems, it will lead to a build up of lactic acid. This increases the risk of having lactic acidosis. Therefore, it is dangerous to take these tablets while you have liver problems.
Metformin side effects
Using this medication in the long term to treat diabetes can lead to mild and severe negative effects in both men and women. Mild side effects occur when you start taking the drug, but usually goes away after a while. However, in case of severe side effects they don’t go away until you seek medical attention.
The common negative effects include:
- Weight loss
- Stomach pain
Serious negative effects include
- Muscle pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heart rate
If you experience any of these unwanted effects, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Interaction with alcohol
The most serious metformin side effect is lactic acidosis. Drinking alcohol while taking this medication increases your risk of lactic acidosis. This is because alcohol raises the level of lactic acid in your body. Hence, you should avoid taking alcohol in large amounts while using the drug. The drug has a box warning people about the risk of lactic acidosis as a result of taking this medication in the long term. Although rare, lactic acidosis is a serious medical condition that happens when there is a build up of metformin in the body. This build up of lactic acid can cause severe damage to lungs, kidneys, heart and blood vessels. If you don’t treat lactic acidosis immediately, it could lead to organs shut down that results in death. To prevent this, you should call your doctor immediately when you experience any of the following lactic acidosis symptoms.
- Decreased appetite
- Trouble breathing
- Fast or slow heart rate
- Feeling cold
Drinking alcohol while taking metformin may also lead to increased risk of having hypoglycemia. You may experience symptoms such as confusion, dizziness and drowsiness which are associated with low blood sugar levels. You should alert the people around that you have diabetes, so that they can watch out for these symptoms as you drink. If you notice any of these symptoms, stop drinking alcohol and eat food to increase your level of blood sugar. You will need to have a glucagon rescue kit in case you experience severe hypoglycemia. Make sure your family and friends know how to use the kit in case of an emergency.