Metformin is a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. It works by lowering the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood, which helps to prevent or delay complications such as heart disease, eye problems, and kidney disease.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved metformin for use in the treatment of adults with type 2 diabetes.
Metformin is not a cure for diabetes, but it can delay or prevent some of the complications caused by having type 2 diabetes. It has been used safely in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes for more than 50 years.
It is often prescribed for diabetics who are over age 65 or have other health problems that put them at risk for heart disease, stroke, eye problems, kidney disease, or amputations.
In clinical trials where patients had metformin added to their current treatment plan, they were less likely to develop high blood pressure and/or heart failure compared to those on only their current treatment plan (the standard of care). They also needed fewer hospital stays due to heart failure and eye problems.
Metformin helps control type 2 diabetes in several ways, including increasing insulin sensitivity which allows the body to use insulin more effectively, decreasing glucose production by the liver, and reducing fat storage. The addition of metformin has not been found to reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke further than that of current treatment plans in people with type 2 diabetes.
Metformin is often taken twice a day with meals, although it can be taken once daily if necessary. Sustained-release metformin should also be taken once daily with meals.
You may need to adjust your dose based on how you tolerate it. Work closely with your doctor or pharmacist during this time to make sure that the dose is right for you and that side effects are monitored.
For those who have trouble swallowing pills, metformin is also available in liquid form. You can use a syringe to measure the appropriate dose of medication needed per serving. It should then be taken as directed with meals just like regular tablets or capsules.
Metformin has been used alone or in combination with other medications, including insulin, sulfonylureas such as glyburide, thiazolidinediones such as pioglitazone, and glitazones such as rosiglitazone. Talk with your doctor about how best to manage your diabetes and whether this medication is the best choice for you.
Metformin is generally well-tolerated in the short term. The most common side effects include diarrhea and stomach pain, which usually go away after a few days. It can also cause gas, decreased appetite, or nausea, but these are temporary.
If you experience any of these symptoms for more than several days while taking metformin, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Some rare side effects that require immediate care include severe allergic reactions such as swelling of the face or throat, numbness or tingling on one side of your body, difficulty breathing or swallowing, and sudden vision changes. If you have heart disease, be sure to talk to your doctor about what type of monitoring should be done while you are taking metformin.
Women who take oral contraceptives may need to use additional birth control if they also take metformin since the medication can make these medications less effective. Other drugs that may interfere with birth control include cyclosporine, disulfiram (a drug used to treat alcoholism), ethylene glycol found in some antifreeze solutions, isoniazid, and nefazodone. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about what form of birth control would be best for you.