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What is Metformin? - Uses, Benefits, & Side Effects

Metformin: Uses, Benefits, & Side Effects

Metformin is a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a prescription medication to treat diabetes. What is Metformin used for? It is used to decrease hepatic (liver) glucose production, to decrease GI glucose absorption, and to increase target cell insulin sensitivity. 

Metformin oral tablets are available as generic drugs as well as under popular brand names like Glucophage, Glucophage XR, Fortamet, and Glumetza. This medicine comes in two forms: tablet and solution, and both forms are taken by mouth. 

What Is Metformin And Why Is It Prescribed?

Metformin is an oral diabetes medicine that helps control blood sugar levels. It is used together with diet and exercise to improve blood sugar control in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metformin is sometimes used together with insulin or other medications. 

Metformin 500 mg  does not help patients who have insulin-dependent or type 1 diabetes because they cannot produce insulin from their own pancreas gland. Their blood glucose is best controlled by insulin injections.

Take this medication regularly in order to get the most benefit from it. Remember to use it at the same time each day. If you are already taking another diabetes drug (such as chlorpropamide), follow your doctor's directions carefully for stopping/continuing the old drug and starting Metformin

Also, check your blood sugar regularly. Tell your doctor if your blood sugar measurements are too high or too low. Your dosage/treatment may need to be changed.

What Precautions Should You Take Before Consuming Metformin?

Before you decide to use Metformin, you must weigh the risks of taking the medicine against the good it will do. For this medicine, the following should be considered:


Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to this medicine or any other medicines. Also, tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals.


Research performed to date hasn’t demonstrated pediatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of Metformin oral solution, extended-release oral suspension, and tablets in children 10 to 16 years of age. However, safety and efficacy of Metformin extended-release tablets in children haven’t been established.


Geriatric-specific problems are not expected to limit the usefulness of Metformin HCL 500 mg in the elderly. However, elderly patients are more likely to have age-related kidney problems, which may require caution in patients receiving Metformin. This medicine is not recommended for patients 80 years of age and older who have kidney problems.


There are no adequate studies related to women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Discuss with your doctor the potential benefits and the potential risks before taking this medication.

Drug Interactions

When you are taking Metformin, it is especially important that your healthcare professional knows if you are taking any other medicines, including such medications as Acetrizoic Acid, Diatrizoate, Ethiodized Oil, Lobenzamic Acid, Lobitridol, etc. They will check on a drug interaction chart to see if it is safe to take Metformin with other medicines. Alternatively, you can use the drug interaction calculator on Medscape.

Possible Benefits Of Using Metformin

Metformin belongs to a class of drugs called biguanides. It works by:

  • Reducing the amount of glucose (sugar) made by your liver.
  • Decreasing the amount of glucose your body absorbs.
  • Increasing the effect of insulin on your body, which lowers your blood sugar levels.

Controlling high blood sugar helps prevent kidney damage, blindness, nerve problems, loss of limbs, and sexual function problems. Proper control of diabetes may also lessen your risk of a heart attack or stroke. 

Metformin works by helping to restore your body's proper response to the insulin you naturally produce. It also decreases the amount of sugar that your liver makes and that your stomach/intestines absorb.

Common Side Effects And Risks Associated With Using Metformin 

Metformin oral tablets can cause mild or serious side effects. It is recommended to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how to deal with possible side effects.

Mild Effects

The more common side effects and risks associated with using Metformin include:

  • Stomach problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Gas

Serious Effects

Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Lactic acidosis, symptoms include tiredness, weakness, unusual muscle pain, trouble breathing, unusual sleepiness, stomach pains, nausea, or vomiting, dizziness or lightheadedness, and slow or irregular heart rate.
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), symptoms include headache, weakness, confusion, shaking or feeling jittery, drowsiness, dizziness, irritability, sweating, hunger, and fast heart rate.

Although Metformin HCL has gained acceptance as a safe, effective, and rational option for reducing insulin resistance in pregnant women with type 2 diabetes, it is strongly recommended that you test for pregnancy before starting with this medicine. 

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