Understanding your medications, their side effects, and how to avoid, or manage them, is essential to diabetes care. While diabetes prescriptions help regulate your blood sugar levels, their benefits come at the risk of side effects that make it difficult for you to stick with your care plan. Research shows that diabetes patients who take metformin — the most commonly prescribed drug — are the least likely to stick to their treatment due to its side effects.
The trick to avoiding or minimizing side effects is understanding how your medications may effect you. Here are common side effects of diabetes medications.
Nausea, gas, bloating, and diarrhea are well-known side effects of metformin (Glucophage), which is usually the first drug that doctors recommend for T2D. It’s reccomended you take Metformin and other diabetes medications with meals to help lessen this side effect, and usually these unpleasant symptoms fade over time.
Other diabetes medications that can upset your stomach include:
- Gliptins like sitagliptin (Januvia), linagliptin (Tradjenta), saxagliptin (Onglyza), alogliptin (Nesina)
- GLP-1 agonists like albiglutide (Tanzeum), dulaglutide (Trulicity), liraglutide (Victoza), exenatide (Byetta), lixisenatide (Adlyxin), and semaglutide (Ozempic)
Low Blood Sugar
Certain diabetes medications stimulate your pancreas to make more insulin. As a result, your blood sugars can drop. Insulin is one of the most common medications with this side effect, but here are a few others in this category:
- Sulfonylureas such as glyburide (Diabeta, Glynase), glipizide (Glucotrol), and glimepiride (Amaryl)
- Meglitinides like nateglinide (Starlix) and repaglinide (Prandin)
Low blood sugars can be dangerous, so it’s important to take measures, like eating a snack, to treat low blood sugars as soon as you experience any of these side effects:
- Pale skin
- Blurred vision
- Pounding heartbeat
- Passing out
If your readings are persistently low, talk to your doctor if your readings are persistently low. You might need a lower dose or change in your medication.
Diabetes medicines that stimulate insulin production can cause weight gain, which can be frustrating if you have weight loss goals. If weight gain has been your concern lately, talk to your doctor. There are other weight-friendly alternatives like Byetta and Victoza that curb appetite and aid in weight loss. Other insulin stimulants include:
- Glitazones such as pioglitazone (Actos) and rosiglitazone (Avandia)
A rare, but serious, side effect of metformin is lactic acidosis. This happens when lactic acid builds up in your blood, usually when your kidneys fail to function the way they should. If you develop these symptoms while taking metformin, call your doctor immediately:
- Sudden stomach discomfort
- Unrelenting weakness, tiredness, or sleepiness
- Trouble breathing
If you have any questions, or want additional guidance on how to manage your medication and their side effects, send your Care Team a message.