Metformin is often said to be one of the top mostly prescribed and used medications against type 2 diabetes nowadays. In 2006 the U.S. doctors issued about 35 million prescriptions for metformin generic. Along with the generic form, several brand medications are available, which are also widely used for lowering blood sugar. The brands include Fortamet, Glucophage, Glucophage XR, Glumetza and Riomet.
The popularity of the drug is explained by a bunch of health benefits, metformin offers to diabetes sufferers. The medication can not only deal with blood sugar, it can also help to reduce cardiovascular risks of those, who suffer from diabetes. Besides, metformin works favorably to help people reduce excessive weight, and fight high levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides. When used alone, metformin, unlike other anti-diabetes drugs, does not reduce glucose below its normal level and cause hypoglycemia, - a condition, which is rare, but one of the most serious safety issues referring other medications, used against diabetes mellitus.
How does a medication, originating from a plant called French lilac, provide all of those health benefits for diabetes sufferers? The answer is behind the mode of action of metformin. It is known that the major problem of diabetes is insufficient amount of insulin, which results in the increased levels of glucose or blood sugar. Some of medications help to fix the situation by stimulating pancreas to produce more insulin. But Metformin works in another way – instead of promoting insulin production by pancreas, metformin suppresses glucose production by liver, the process known as gluconeogenesis.
In addition to suppressing the production of blood sugar, metformin works in other directions as well. Thus, metformin helps to increase insulin sensitivity of the body cells, which is another problem for people with type 2 diabetes, whose organisms develop the so-called “insulin resistance”. And, finally, metformin decreases the amount of glucose absorbed into bloodstream from gastrointestinal tract. These all lead to a reduction blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.
In order to make the treatment even more effective, metformin may be combined with other anti-diabetes drugs, such as sulfonylurea or even with insulin injections. However, such combination may potentially lead to abnormally low levels of blood sugar, so patients should keep this in mind and constantly monitor their glucose level.
The initial dose of metformin is either 500mg twice daily or 850mg once daily taken with meals. Gradually the daily dose may be increased up to a maximum 2550 mg daily for adults and 2000 mg for children.
Finally, it should be noted that metformin belongs to valuable anti-diabetes medications because of its safety. In most of the cases metformin is well-tolerated with only some mild or moderate gastrointestinal side effects, such as heartburn, nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, loss of appetite and stomachache. One may also feel some metallic taste in the mouth and experience weight loss.
The most serious side effect of metformin is a condition called lactic acidosis. Statistically it develops in one out of 30,000 patients and, unfortunately fatal in 50% of cases. The signs of the condition are weakness, trouble breathing, abnormal heartbeats, muscle pain and stomach discomfort, light-headedness and feeling cold. This condition may develop rapidly, and a victim should be taken to emergency urgently.