A list of Metformin Side Effects
Originally sold as Glucophage, Metformin is an oral antidiabetic drug from the biguanide class. Metformin is prescribed for patients with Type 2 Diabetes specifically for overweight or obese patients as well as those with normal kidney function.
It lowers the level of sugar in the blood by allowing other organs and tissues, such as the liver, muscle and fat to be sensitive to the effects of insulin, thus lowering its resistance. It also decreases levels of triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels. Aside from that, it also prevents cardiovascular complications without increasing the patient’s weight. According to recent statistics, Metformin has reduced the mortality rates related to diabetes by up to 36%.
Metformin has been known to be used for reasons other than those listed in its medication guide. Aside from using Metformin for treating type 2 Diabetes it is also used to treat polycystic ovary syndrome but it is not used to treat type 1 diabetes.
Though Metformin has many benefits, it also has its side effects, as with any drug available in the market today. But if used properly, Metformin side effects are manageable and would not need to cause any serious medical concern.
Allergic Reaction to Metformin
Some patients may have an allergic reaction to Metformin and it is important to watch out for these allergic reactions since they would need emergency treatment right away. Allergic reaction to Metformin includes difficulty in breathing and hives. Swelling can also be an allergic reaction to Metformin, swelling can happen in the face, lips, throat or tongue.
Another allergic reaction from Metofrmin can cause lactic acidosis. Lactic Acidosis is when the blood and body tissues have a very low pH value. This causes a high build up of lactic acid in the body and this can be fatal.
Utilizing the data gathered from clinical trials of Metformin, there have been statistics which show the different adverse effects that patients may feel when taking the drug. The most alarming of these would be that 52.3% of those who take the drug will experience diarrhea. 25.5% of patients may also suffer from vomiting and nausea. If left untreated, Metformin side effects can cause serious damage to a person’s health, especially to diabetics. Though they may seem simple and easy to cure, they still need the immediate attention of a physician as soon as possible.
Other less serious adverse effects would include bloating or gas, which is experienced by 12.1% of the patients. Another 9.2% would feel weak or lethargic because of the drug, while 7.1% will have trouble digesting their food. Finally, 6.4% of patients may experience stomachache and 5.7% will have a headache sometime when using the drug.
According to other clinical studies, 1 to 5% of patients may experience any of the following adverse effects of this drug: taste changes, or sudden taste of metal in mouth, abnormal fecal matter, muscle pain, ligtheadedness or dizziness. There can be other problems such as difficulty breathing, nail problems, loss of appetite and increased sweating. Flu-like symptoms may also occur, such as cough and colds, fever, chills and weakness of the body. A sudden redness of the skin on the face, also called flushing, may occur to the patient as a side effect. malabsorption of vitamin B12 is another side effect that can lead to megaloblastic anemia. Other unwanted effects would include asthenia, increased homocystine levels, nusual drowsiness and a general feeling of being unwell.
But there are other major side effects of Metformin, which could cause serious damage to a diabetic’s health. These are hypoglycemia, or also known as low blood sugar, hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, lactic acidosis, or increased lactic acid production and nerve damage due to vitamin B12. Details below:
Hypoglycemia or a condition of low blood sugar occurs when the sugar level in your blood drops to a level that is too low for your body’s needs. Symptoms of this condition would include excessive sweating, shakiness, extreme hunger, cold sweats, blurry vision, erratic changes in behavior, difficulty speaking and seizures. Though Metformin is a drug for diabetics so that they can lessen their blood sugar levels, too low sugar levels in the blood are not healthy either. People experiencing these symptoms must ingest any food with sugar content in it, such as hard candy, or juice. This is to prevent any further damage or more severe effects to occur.
Hyperglycemia or a rapid increase of sugar content in the blood is another serious side effect of Metformin. Symptoms of this condition would include: increased hunger, dry mouth, extreme thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision, fatigue, shortness of breath and nausea or vomiting. It is important to treat this condition at once, or else your body might experience diabetic ketoaicidosis. This would inhibit your breathing and might even lead you to pass out after a few moments.
Though Metformin has a lot of benefits, it may also cause permanent nerve damage. Three out of ten people might experience this due to a deficiency in vitamin B12, which is one of the Metformin side effects. Vitamin B12 deficiency takes about 10-15 years before the symptoms can be noticed, and by that time, then the damage would have been irreversible. These signs of nerve damage can be sometimes mistaken as diabetic neuropathy, which is why it can go untreated and eventually become permanent.
Probably the most dangerous side effect of Metformin, lactic acidosis occurs when there is too much lactic acid in the person’s bloodstream. This would most likely happen with patients with certain medical conditions, such as kidney or liver disease, recent surgery, infections, heart conditions, heavy alcohol use and dehydration. Symptoms of lactic acidosis would include feeling tired or weak, difficulty in breathing, dizziness or lightheadedness, irregular heartbeat or tachycardia, shortness of breath, frequent nausea, abdominal pain, an enlarged or tender liver, and feeling cold, blue or cold hands and feet. Those these symptoms may sound scary, this complication is very rare. If the patient is generally healthy, then he or she can take the excess amounts of lactic acid in his or her body. Though this may be the most serious side effect, lactic acidosis is also very uncommon among patients who use Metformin. According to a large-scale study, out of 10,000 diabetic patients, who have been treated with Metformin for over 10 years, only 10 will die of lactic acidosis. This is a fairly small number as compared to the 500 diabetes related deaths that Metformin would have prevented.
Metformin Effects in Children
If children are taking this drug, then chances are they might experience some of these effects as well. According to studies, Metformin can have the same effects on children as with adults. But since children cannot handle the symptoms as well as adults, they have to be given special care and be given medical attention immediately, whenever these effects arise.
What to do when Experiencing These Effects?
With every drug, there are always adverse effects that patients have to bear with in order to feel the healing effects that the drug may have for their illness. Though there may be unwanted effects, these can also be treated and taken care of medically, through the advice of a physician. But it is also important to note that every patient will be experiencing a different set or combination of side effects. This is due to differences in body structure, previous health issues and the like. That is why it is very important to seek the advice of a medical professional once these effects start to manifest, so that patients can experience the benefits of the drug, without risking their own health as well.
When experiencing side effects of the drug such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and the like, it would be advisable for the patient to discuss these with their doctor, especially when they become troublesome or unbearable for the patient. If the patient on the other hand, experiences difficulty in breathing, along with drowsiness, dizziness and confusion, it may be advisable to seek medical attention immediately and discontinue the use of the drug. These symptoms may be the sign of lactic acidosis, and would be better if treated early on, especially when the symptoms start.
To avoid nerve damage caused by Vitamin B12 deficiency, patients can watch what they eat and improve on their diet to make up for the vitamin B12 that they lose as a side effect of Metformin.
The side effects of Metformin (Glucophage) may be a lot, but as many doctors say, the benefits of the drug outweigh the negative effects that it may bring. But patients should always be reminded to check with a physician regularly regarding their intake of the drug so that it won’t cause any major damage to the person’s overall health. The best way to treat these unwanted effects is with caution, so that patients can enjoy the benefits that Metformin can give to them.