Metformin may cause side effects, including diarrhea and headache. But you should talk with a doctor before stopping Metformin or any other prescription medication.
Recall of metformin extended release
In May 2020, the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)recommended that some makers of metformin extended release remove some of their tablets from the U.S. market. This is because an unacceptable level of a probable carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) was found in some extended-release metformin tablets. If you currently take this drug, call a healthcare professional. They’ll advise whether you should continue to take your medication or if you need a new prescription.
The most common medication for treating diabetes is metformin. It can help control high blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. It’s available in tablet form (Glumetza) or a clear liquid (Riomets) you take by mouth with meals.
If you’re taking metformin to treat type 2 diabetes, it may be possible to stop. You may be able to manage your condition by making certain lifestyle changes, such as keeping up a moderate weight and exercising regularly.
But you should always talk with a doctor or healthcare professional before you stop taking metformin, even if lifestyle changes are helping to manage your diabetes.
Read on to learn more about metformin and whether it’s possible to stop taking it.
Metformin doesn’t treat the underlying cause of diabetes. It treats the symptoms of diabetes by
- decreasing your liver’s production of glucose
- decreasing absorption of glucose from your gut
- improving your insulin sensitivity in peripheral tissues, increasing your tissue uptake and use of glucose
Metformin helps with other things in addition to improving your blood sugar. These include:
- lowering lipids, resulting in a decrease in your blood triglyceride levels
- decreasing your “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
- increasing your “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
- possibly lowering your appetite, which may result in modest weight loss
Doctors typically consider metformin a safe and effective medication for type 2 diabetes.
But due to possible risks and side effects, metformin isn’t safe for everyone. It may not be suitable for people who have a history of:
If you’re currently taking metformin and have had some unpleasant side effects, you might be looking for alternative treatment options.
Most common side effects
- nausea and vomiting
- weakness or lack of energy
- abdominal discomfort
Other side effects
In some people, metformin leads to poor absorption of vitamin B12. That can lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency, though this only occurs after long-term medication use.
Taking metformin might also lead to loss of appetite, which could cause a small amount of weight loss. But taking this medication won’t lead to weight gain.
There are also a few other side effects you may encounter.
It’s extremely rare, but metformin can cause a life threatening condition called lactic acidosis. People with lactic acidosis have a buildup of lactic acid in their blood and shouldn’t take metformin. This condition is very dangerous and often fatal.
Lactic acidosis is
If you take metformin with other diabetes drugs or insulin, there’s an increased risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
But metformin does not cause hypoglycemia when taken alone.
It’s important to monitor your blood sugar regularly so a doctor can adjust your dosage based on your levels.
Metformin can be an important part of an effective diabetes treatment plan. But lowering your dose of metformin or stopping it altogether can be safe if your diabetes is in remission.
If you want to stop taking diabetes medications, you should talk with a doctor or healthcare professional first.
Everyone who has diabetes can benefit from changing certain lifestyle habits, even those who take medications.
Keeping up a moderate weight, eating a healthy diet, and exercising are the best ways to help lower your blood glucose. If you can manage these through lifestyle changes, you may be able to stop taking metformin or other diabetes drugs.
Doctors typically measure remission with an A1C blood test. This test assesses your average blood glucose levels. You usually need to meet the following criteria before you can stop taking diabetes medications:
- Your A1C is less than 6.5% for 6 months or more.
- Your fasting morning blood glucose is under 130 mg/dL.
- Your blood glucose level at random or after a meal is below 180 mg/dL.
You shouldn’t stop taking metformin if you don’t meet these criteria. Keep in mind that these criteria can change based on your age, overall health, and other factors. So, it’s important to talk with a doctor before changing your metformin plan.
Metformin may help prevent long-term health complications from type 2 diabetes. But you may be able to stop taking it if a doctor thinks you can manage your blood sugar without it.
You may be able to successfully lower and manage your blood sugar without medication
- keeping up a moderate weight
- exercising regularly
- lowering your intake of carbohydrates
- stopping smoking tobacco in any form
- drinking less or no alcohol
It’s also important to get support. A registered dietitian, personal trainer, or peer group can improve your chances of sticking with these healthy habits.
Visit the American Diabetes Association for online and local support in your community.
Metformin is a common drug for the treatment of diabetes. If you successfully manage your diabetes to remission, it’s possible to stop taking metformin.
Lifestyle and dietary changes can help you manage your blood sugar levels and possibly reach diabetes remission.