The Side Effects You Might Experience If You Take Metformin

Metformin is the most commonly prescribed medication for treating type 2 diabetes, as per Jama. French physician Jean Sterne was the first to use metformin to treat diabetes in 1957 (via Diabetologia) and decades later, the medication became available in the U.S. in 1995.

It's now the most prescribed medication used to lower blood sugar worldwide. It works by lowering both the glucose absorbed by food and the glucose released by the liver. At the same time, it increases your body's response to insulin, which controls the amount of glucose in the blood.

While the medication is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in order to lower blood glucose, it is sometimes prescribed off label to women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or prediabetes (via Up To Date).

However, there are some things you should know before taking this drug. Metformin is not without risk and it comes with side effects ranging from mild to severe.

Common side effects of Metformin

If your doctor offers Metformin, you should let them know if you're breastfeeding and also inform them of what other medication you are currently taking. The drug has interactions with several other medications, including aspirin, beta blockers, antibiotics, antivirals, and others (via Mayo Clinic). It can also negatively affect those who have anemia, kidney or liver issues, B-12 deficiency, as well as those who drink a lot of alcohol or are dehydrated.

Metformin is given orally in pill-form and your doctor may advise you to take a pill anywhere from one to three times a day depending on your course of treatment (via Web MD). You should also be advised to take it with meals and to make sure you drink a lot of water with it, since it can affect the kidneys.

According to Mayo Clinic, common side effects include cough or hoarseness, decreased appetite, heartburn, headache, diarrhea, fast or shallow breathing, fever or chills, lower back or side pain, muscle cramps, painful or difficult urination, and sleepiness.

Metformin can cause more serious side effects

Since Metformin lowers glucose absorption, the most common serious side effect is low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia (via Medical News Today). Hypoglycemia can cause shakiness, fast heartache and/or palpitations, dizziness, weakness, fainting and in severe cases, seizures and coma.

In addition, Metformin can lead to lactic acidosis, which results from a buildup of lactic acid in the blood. It occurs when oxygen levels in cells become too low. Symptoms include confusion, jaundice, trouble breathing, exhaustion or extreme fatigue, muscle cramps, weakness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headache, and rapid heart rate (via Healthline).

Kidney damage is also a risk. The drug is thought to reduce kidney function in people with diabetes and already existing chronic kidney disease (via National Library of Medicine).

Whenever you are prescribed any medication you should discuss with your doctor potential risks. If you don't feel confident, do your own research before taking it. It also helps to get a second opinion.