In the United States, more than 37 million people have diabetes, and approximately 90-95% of them have type 2 diabetes. Normally, the hormone insulin is made by the pancreas and is responsible for letting blood sugar into the cells in your body for use as energy. In people with type 2 diabetes, however, cells don’t respond normally to insulin—a phenomenon known as insulin resistance. When sugar can’t enter the body’s cells, it builds up in the blood, causing high blood sugar and potentially serious health problems.
In addition to diet and exercise, there are diabetes medications available that can help lower your blood sugar which will delay or prevent complications from the disease. Metformin is generally the first medication prescribed for those with type 2 diabetes. Below, we’ve put together all the must-know info you’ll need about metformin, so you can be fully informed and on your way to managing your condition.
Metformin is used, either alone or along with other medications—including insulin—to treat type 2 diabetes. This medication belongs to a class of drugs known as biguanides, which work by reducing the production of glucose that occurs during digestion. Metformin in particular works by controlling the amount of glucose—sugar—in your blood by decreasing the amount of glucose you absorb from your food and the amount of glucose made by your liver. Metformin simultaneously improves your body’s sensitivity to insulin so that your body uses insulin more effectively.
In addition to making healthy lifestyle changes—quitting smoking, moderating alcohol, losing weight, and regularly checking your blood sugar—medication can help you manage your diabetes and prevent serious health complications. Taking metformin may also decrease your chances of having a heart attack, stroke, or other diabetes-related complications such as kidney failure, nerve damage, eye problems, including changes or loss of vision, or gum disease.
If your doctor prescribes you metformin, make sure to take it as directed. Read the prescription label carefully, and feel free to reach out to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions or need clarification.
Metformin comes in multiple forms; liquid, tablet, and an extended-release tablet taken by mouth. If you are taking the liquid form, this is usually taken with food one to two times a day; the tablet is taken with food two to three times a day. The extended-release tablet is usually taken once a day with your evening meal.
If you are taking the tablet form of metformin, make sure you swallow them whole; don’t split, chew, or crush them.
Make sure, when starting metformin, that you stay in close contact with your healthcare provider. It will be important to monitor your blood sugar as you begin taking the medication in order to assess how well metformin is working. In some cases, your doctor may start you on a low dose before gradually increasing your dosage every 1-2 weeks.
Remember, you should never stop taking any prescribed medication without first talking to your doctor.
Before taking metformin, check the manufacturer’s patient information for a list of the ingredients to make sure you’re not allergic to anything in the medication. Be sure to let your doctor know about any other prescription medications you are taking, including vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products. You’ll also want to mention if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you eat less or exercise more than usual, as these activities can affect your blood sugar levels.
If you miss a dose of metformin, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. You should avoid doubling up on a dose to make up for a missed one.
In combination with maintaining a health diet, exercise, weight loss, and other healthy lifestyle choices, a metformin prescription can help you manage your type 2 diabetes so as to delay or prevent further health complications. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are prescribed metformin and have any questions or need clarifications.