Diabetes Medication Side Effects – What You Really Need To Know

Diabetes medication side effects are symptoms or problems that arise after taking diabetes drugs that are unwanted or undesirable.

"For example, some diabetes medicines can cause nausea or an upset stomach when you first start taking them. Before you start a new medicine, ask your doctor about possible side effects and how you can avoid them. If the side effects of your medicine bother you, tell your doctor"(1)

Diabetes medication side effects – What Do Diabetes Drugs Do?

Diabetes medications act to help a person with diabetes mellitus control their blood sugar levels. If blood sugar levels are left untreated, their chronic elevation can lead to serious health conditions such as problems with the kidneys and nervous system, eye disorders, heart disease, strokes or heart attacks.

If diet and exercise is not enough to keep blood sugar levels under control, then a doctor will recommend diabetes medications. The type of medicine a person takes will depend on factors such as the type of diabetes they have and other health conditions that may be present.

Diabetes medication side effects for type 1 diabetes

A person with type 1 diabetes mellitus will need to take insulin because the body is incapable of producing it. Insulin is administered as daily shots or through an insulin pump. Other drugs may need to be taken in addition to the insulin.

Type 1 diabetes medication side effects can include hypoglycemia, which is a condition that occurs when blood sugar levels fall below normal. This condition can result if too much insulin is taken or if other drugs interact with the insulin to increase its effects.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Hunger
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Confusion

If these symptoms are noted treatment should be given quickly with the goal of raising the blood sugar levels. This can be accomplished by giving the person sugar to eat such as a hard candy to suck on or a fruit juice drink.

Weight gain is another possible side effect of insulin.

Diabetes medication side effects for type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. In this form of the disease the body cannot keep up with the need for insulin or is resistant to its effects and if diet and exercise changes are not enough to control the blood sugar levels a person will begin taking one or more prescription medications.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that most patients with type 2 diabetes start taking metformin, which is taken in pill form.

The most common side effects of metformin include nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, gas and a diminished appetite. If the diabetes medication side effects become severe or disruptive to the quality of life for the patient, then dosing amounts may be decreased under the doctor’s supervision.

A rare side effect of metformin is lactic acidosis. Symptoms include weakness, difficulty breathing, irregularity to the heart beat, unusual muscle pain, stomach discomfort, and a feeling of being light-headed. This can occur in one out of every 30,000 patients.

(1) National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (2008). What I need to know about Diabetes Medicines. Retrieved from http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/medicines_ez/#sideeffects


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