Side Effects of Metformin that Diabetes Patients Should Know

monitor for blood sugar levels in diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes, metformin is most likely the first medicine you’ll take. Here are some side effects of metformin that you should know about.

How metformin works

Metformin helps your body use its own insulin better. It does this by lowering the amount of sugar the liver makes. This in turn lowers blood sugar levels. Metformin has two advantages over other diabetes drugs:

  • There’s less risk of your blood sugar level falling too low.
  • It doesn’t cause weight gain.

But like any medicine, metformin can cause side effects.

Side Effects of Metformin

Digestive Issues

Up to 25% of diabetes patients taking metformin find they have bloating, gas, diarrhea, belly pain, and constipation. Often these side effects disappear on their own. By starting with a low dose and taking metformin with food, you can ease the side effects.

Extended-release form of metformin

Side effects of the extended-release form of metformin are milder. You take this form once a day instead of twice a day as with the regular form. For example, you’re less likely to experience diarrhea and nausea.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Without sufficient B12, your risk of peripheral neuropathy increases. This is numbness or tingling in your feet and legs. This is already a risk with diabetes, so make sure you check your B12 level regularly. Keep your B12 levels high naturally by eating beef liver, clams, chicken, beef, eggs, dairy products, and fortified cereals.

Lactic Acidosis

A tiny fraction of people who take the drug will have this buildup of lactic acid, a chemical that your muscles and red blood cells make naturally. It’s more likely to happen in people whose kidneys don’t work properly and can’t clear metformin from the body. Warning signs of this condition are stomach pain, dizziness, and weakness.

Good to Know

Alcohol can prompt problems with lactic acid when you’re taking metformin, so limit your intake of alcohol.

If you need to have an imaging test that uses contrast dye, such as a CT scan or MRI, stop taking metformin. The combination of the dye and the drug can cause a reaction that leads to lactic acidosis

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