Metformin (glucophage xr)- Side Effects of Metformin

Your Guide to Metformin

Are you aware of Metformin? Probably you’ve seen it on your doctor’s prescription as Glucophage or Glucophage XR, if you have Type 2 Diabetes or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. With the hype about the alarming rise in percentage population diagnosed with diabetes and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome not far behind with roughly 1 in 20 women of childbearing age being affected by it, Metformin stands a good chance of becoming a part of most household medicine-kits. However, there are still a lot of people who may not be aware of the symptoms that indicate the need for the use of Metformin, its side effects and the safe guards for its optimum usage. Here is all you need to know about Metformin.

What is Metformin?

Metformin has been around a long time but has been slow to get recognition as effective treatment for diabetes. It first became available in the United Kingdom in 1958, but only received approvals in Canada in 1972 and the U.S. as late as 1994. With ready availability of the generic formula in most countries Metformin is believed to be the foremost amongst drugs prescribed for diabetes.

Types of Metformin:

There are different formulations of Metformin available in the market. Just as in the case of insulin, Metformin also comes in formulations which are immediate acting as well as long release. Effectively speaking this implies that a user can control depending upon the type of Metformin used, the symptoms of his/ her condition over a short or an extended period, or both.
These formulations are known as:
• Metformin
• Metformin Extended-Release

Metformin is used to treat:
• Type – 2 Diabetes
• Pre-diabetes
• Gestational Diabetes, and
• Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Type – 2 Diabetes and Metformin

Since 1994 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Metformin, it has become the most prescribed anti – diabetes medicine. Unlike insulin treatment which relies upon increasing or adding to insulin content in the body, Metformin acts upon the liver in decrease the amount of sugar produced by it (the liver), it also decreases the amount of sugar absorbed by the body. Therefore, it reduces the need for external insulin support, whether directly or in the form of enhancers/boosters.

Pre-diabetes and Metformin

Firstly, it is important to understand what pre-diabetes is. It is a condition where the blood glucose levels are above the average/ normal mark, but not high enough to diagnose that person with diabetes. Since, pre-diabetes is the precursor to full blown diabetes any treatment concentrating on enhancing insulin leads to external insulin dependence, Metformin which aims at controlling sugar to conform to the bodies’ insulin levels is now providing an alternative line of treatment.

Gestational Diabetes and Metformin

Advances in medicine have led to the identification of Gestational Diabetes a condition caused by the increased requirement for insulin secretions during pregnancy which in turn increases insulin resistance leading to a corresponding increase in the demands on pancreatic beta-cells. Gestational Diabetes has been more commonly identified in women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome who have a pre-existing insulin resistance. Research in the nascent stage is pointing to the possibility of Metformin use as a preventive for the development of Gestational Diabetes, because the premise is that it reduces insulin resistance by lowering requirements for endogenous insulin secretion thus preserving beta-cell function and preventing onset of Type- 2 Diabetes.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Metformin

Occurring in five to ten percent of women Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome otherwise called Stein-Leventhal syndrome, is the commonest cause of female infertility. The syndrome is a hormonal problem, evidenced by a variety of symptoms. One of them is the presence of numerous small cysts in the ovaries which defines the presence of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome if it occurs in the backdrop of a constellation of symptoms characteristic of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
With the present understanding of the co-relation between Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Type- 2 Diabetes, the use of Metformin to reduce many of the symptoms including complications of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome has shown a steady increase on the graph.
Apart from prevention of Type- 2 Diabetes, and/or Gestational Diabetes, Metformin has now emerged as having a proactive effect on management of irregular periods, weight loss, and ovulation induction.

Side Effects of Metformin Different Formulations:

Even though the various formulations of Metformin are crucial to a viable alternative treatment of diabetes and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome they have a large number of uncomfortable side effects.

Commonly found Metformin side effects:

Metformin Side Effects

• Diarrhea
• Gas
• Headache
• Indigestion
• Nausea
• Stomach upset
• Temporary metallic taste
• Vomiting

Harsh side effects of Metformin:

• There may be some sort of a severe allergic reaction, for instance a rash, itching, hives, tightness in the chest , difficulty in breathing, swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, or face
• Chest pain or discomfort
• Dizziness or light-headedness
• Fast or difficult breathing
• Feeling of being unusually cold
• Fever
• Chills
• Persistent sore throat
• General feeling of being unwell
• Muscle pain or weakness
• Slow or irregular heartbeat
• Unusual drowsiness
• Unusual or persistent stomach pain or discomfort
• Unusual tiredness or weakness

Commonly found Metformin Side Effects of Extended- Release:

• Cold-like symptoms;
• Diarrhea
• Headache
• Indigestion
• Mild weight gain
• Nausea
• Stomach upset

Harsh Side Effects of Metformin Extended Release:

• There may be some sort of a severe allergic reaction, for instance a rash, itching, hives, tightness in the chest , difficulty in breathing, swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, or face
• Blurred vision or other vision changes
• Bone pain
• Chest pain or discomfort;
• Dark urine;
• Difficult or painful urination
• Dizziness or lightheadedness
• Fainting
• Fast or difficult breathing
• Feeling of being unusually cold
• General feeling of being unwell
• Muscle pain or weakness
• Pale stools
• Persistent loss of appetite
• Severe or persistent headache
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Shortness of breath
• Slow or irregular heartbeat
• Sudden unexplained weight gain
• Swelling of the hands, ankles, or feet
• Unusual stomach pain or discomfort
• Unusual drowsiness
• Unusual tiredness or weakness
• Yellowing of the eyes or skin

The side effects occurring from the usage of Metformin varies from person to person depending upon the individual reaction of each user and may occur in a variety of combination of symptoms. It is critical to understand that the presence of any one or more of these symptoms must act as a red flag to alert the user that there is a need for medical intervention and the advice of a competent medical practitioner is absolutely essential and non-negotiable. Self- medication in these circumstances can lead to disastrous consequences, and the importance of seeking informed medical aid as the first instance and in a timely fashion cannot be overstressed. Needless to say that, as is the case with most drugs, some degree of side effects would necessarily result from the usage, however, these symptoms can be reduced with medical intervention to manageable levels in almost all cases barring a few exceptional extreme reactions.

Like most life-long conditions diabetes and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome are disorders that need monitoring and management. Prolonged use of any extraneous chemical formulation that seeks to interfere or alter the bodies’ natural states or alter its natural responses in the long term does cause reactions which may be greater or lesser in their impact depending upon the individual users’ bodily reactions

Taking on board the fact that Metformin once introduced into a person’s medical regime would be a lifelong companion the Metformin side effects, therefore, can be mitigated at the first stage by recognition of this fact and by an adherence to a carefully managed medical protocol consisting of a suitably altered lifestyle and dietary patterns in conjunction with Metformin. This will ensure, the maximum result for the minimum intake with the obvious corollary that lower the levels of intervention higher the bodies’ capacity to accept them over long periods without dramatic increases in the side effects of Metformin usage. At the next level the doctor/ specialist in charge can provide combinations of medicines that would be complementary to Metformin and would be aimed at reducing the Metformin side effects without impacting its effectiveness.

It is important to understand that despite its side effects Metformin is essential to managing the condition and that the effects of not taking the treatment would result in dire consequences that far outweigh the disadvantageous side effects of Metformin. What is required is awareness and understanding of the condition, the need for intervention the acknowledgement of the Metformin side effects drug and the counter measures to be adopted for effectively dealing with and reducing the impact of the side effects. Since life without intervention is not a possibility and the side effects, more or less, are a given, the prudent course is to plan the long term intervention strategy and approach the issue with positivity and attention to detail, one of the key ingredients in winning the battle against what is considered to be a killer disease is to devote ones energies to finding a competent medical practioner who will devise a long-term strategy based on a combination of factors which will enhance the effectiveness of Metformin by reducing the need to increase dosages due to mismanagement thus directly impacting the presence and/or severity of the side effects of Metformin.

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2 Comments

  1. Phyllis Rose August 12, 2011

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