What are the most common side effects of Metformin?
The most common side effects of Metformin are:
- Abdominal pain
- Reduced appetite
- Diarrhea (usually this only lasts for a short time)
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Nausea and vomiting
- Altered sense of taste
Starting Metformin at a low dose and taking Metformin with meals should help to reduce the side effects that you experience.
How long do Metformin side effects last?
Most side effects will resolve after two weeks of taking Metformin. If you experience diarrhea when taking Metformin, this should resolve within a few days. Most people will start on a low-dose of Metformin to help reduce the likelihood and degree of side effects. If you experience persistent side effects, or if your side effects significantly impact your life, you should discuss this with your doctor, who may be able to adjust your dose or offer alternative medications.
What are the bad side effects of Metformin?
There are few severe side effects of Metformin. In rare cases, Metformin can cause hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), skin reactions and a condition called lactic acidosis. The symptoms of lactic acidosis are:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Decreased appetite
- Fast or shallow breathing
- Severe muscle pain or cramping
- Unusual weakness or fatigue
- A general feeling of being unwell
With Metformin, as with all medications, a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) may occur. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:
- Swelling - especially of the face, tongue or throat
- Breathing difficulties
If you experience any of these symptoms listed above, you should seek emergency medical attention.
What are the side effects of long term use of Metformin?
Metformin is designed to be taken long-term to regulate blood sugar levels. Therefore some side effects may occur after long-term use. Up to 30% of people taking Metformin long-term will experience vitamin B12 deficiency. This can produce symptoms of fatigue, headaches, heart palpitations, loss of balance, loss of appetite, and resultant weight loss, among other symptoms. Vitamin B12 deficiency is easily treated; however, permanent consequences can occur if the deficiency persists for an extended period.
What are the side effects if you stop taking Metformin?
You should only stop Metformin if instructed to do so by your doctor, or if you experience significant side effects. Stopping Metformin can increase your blood sugar levels and diabetic symptoms. If you would like to stop taking Metformin, you should discuss this with your doctor.
What should you not eat when taking Metformin?
There are no specific foods that you must avoid when taking Metformin. However, Metformin can interact with alcohol, increasing your risk of lactic acidosis. In addition, alcohol can impair your body’s ability to manage glucose, so it is recommended that you avoid drinking alcohol when taking Metformin.
While there are no foods that you must avoid when taking Metformin, you may want to make some dietary changes to help regulate your blood sugar. Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, rice, and pasta, along with sugary foods, can have a big impact on your blood sugar levels. To avoid increasing your blood sugar levels, you can avoid these foods or replace refined carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates such as wholewheat bread and brown rice.
Are there any precautions when taking Metformin?
Metformin should not be prescribed for individuals who are at risk of developing lactic acidosis. Risk factors for lactic acidosis include:
- Chronic heart failure
- Medications that can affect kidney function
- Dehydration (you should rehydrate then continue taking Metformin)
- Impaired kidney function
- Conditions that can cause tissue hypoxia (low oxygen levels)
Symptoms of lactic acidosis include stomach discomfort, reduced appetite, diarrhea, rapid or shallow breathing, general discomfort, severe muscle pain and cramping, and weakness and fatigue.
Metformin may also interact with certain medications, including the contrast dye used in some x-rays and CT scans.
Make sure you tell the prescribing doctor about any conditions or medications that you take so that they can make sure Metformin is safe for you.
What drugs should not be taken with Metformin?
Metformin can interact with several medications, so it is important to let the prescribing doctor know if you are taking any prescription drugs, recreational drugs or herbal medicines. For a full list of Metformin drug interactions, please see the patient information leaflet included with your prescription.
When should Metformin be stopped?
Metformin may be stopped if it is no longer suitable for you or if you no longer need treatment. You should only stop taking Metformin if you have a severe reaction, or if you are told to do so by your doctor.
Metformin is only effective as long as the pancreas produces insulin. If Metformin is no longer treating your diabetes, your doctor may need to prescribe a different medication, such as insulin.
Some people can experience severe side effects from Metformin, which can significantly interfere with their quality of life. If this applies to you, speak to your doctor about alternative treatment options.
Diabetes is not always a life-long condition. Gestational diabetes usually resolves shortly after giving birth. Type-2 diabetes may also go into remission with weight loss. A hemoglobin A1C of less than 6% for over three months may be a cause to stop taking Metformin. Along with medications, a healthy diet, weight management and regular exercise are imperative to managing diabetes.