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What is metformin?

Metformin is a drug that belongs to the class biguanides and is commonly marketed as Glucophage. It is considered to be one of the first choice drugs for the treatment of type-2 diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic condition that needs to be managed effectively life-long and so metformin is prescribed for long-term use.

There are some side effects associated with metformin that can range from the mild to the serious.

Common side effects of metformin

Patients may notice some of the following side effects associated with metformin when they first start taking the drug. These side effects go away on their own in most cases but some patients may find them troublesome enough to seek the advice of their doctor.

Stomach pain, gas, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, constipation, acidity, and a headache are some of the most common side effects associated with metformin use initially.

Serious side effects of metformin

Lactic acidosis

This is easily the most serious side effect that can occur with metformin usage. The FDA requires drug packaging to carry a boxed warning about this risk.

A build-up of metformin in the body, usually due to renal failure, is what causes lactic acidosis. The condition is a medical emergency that carries a high rate of mortality with it. Some of the symptoms that are noticed in patients suffering from lactic acidosis include severe weakness, lethargy, tiredness, pain in the muscles, dizziness, feeling lighthearted, nausea, vomiting, and an altered heart rate.

Patients must be taken to the emergency room where drug elimination procedures from the body will be carried out.


Several well respected scientific studies have found that people taking metformin for a long duration of time are much more likely to develop anemia than those that are not. The exact mechanism that is responsible for this association is not yet understood, although a few theories are considered promising.

The anemia that is seen in metformin patients is also likely to be due to the deficiency of Vitamin B12. Taking Vitamin B12 supplements can be beneficial for such patients.

Symptoms of anemia include tiredness, feeling dizzy and lightheaded, and a loss of stamina.


Metformin as a drug helps control diabetes by bringing down sugar levels through more efficient utilization of insulin in the body. Patients on metformin that do not follow the dietary guidelines and exercise guidelines set by their doctors, or indulge in excessive alcohol intake then they are likely to suffer from a hypoglycemic attack.

Hypoglycemia can be prevented through proper care and ensuring that the instructions given by the doctor are followed precisely. The symptoms associated with hypoglycemia include dizziness, fainting, tiredness, change in mood, nausea, and vomiting.


Metformin is one of the most common drugs that is prescribed for type-2 diabetes around the world. It is considered to be an extremely safe drug in the vast majority of the situations. It should, however, be taken with care as carelessness can result in some pretty serious side effects.   

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