What is Glucophage&Reg;?

Kelly Ferguson

Glucophage® is one of the names for the drug known as metformin. It is a medication used by people with type II diabetes to help lower the blood sugar. It is usually helpful for people who are either already diabetic or at risk for developing diabetes, but sometimes it does not provide enough protection by itself and must be used in conjunction with other techniques. It works best in combination with a diet also aimed toward blood sugar control. It is important for someone taking Glucophage® to have his or her blood sugar checked on a regular basis to ensure that the blood sugar levels remain in the normal range.

If early Type II diabetes is not well-controlled with Glucophage or another type of metformin, regular injections of insulin may be the only other option.
If early Type II diabetes is not well-controlled with Glucophage or another type of metformin, regular injections of insulin may be the only other option.

Glucophage® reduces the amount of glucose, or sugar, the body produces, and it also reduces the amount of glucose absorbed from food by the body. Diabetic individuals at risk for developing diabetes are often advised by doctors to reduce the amount of starchy carbohydrates and simple sugars eaten in an attempt to keep blood sugar under control. Glucophage® is often used to supplement this diet.

Glucophage is sometimes prescribed off-label to treat polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Glucophage is sometimes prescribed off-label to treat polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

A secondary way this medication keeps blood sugar under control is by lowering the body’s resistance to insulin. Insulin naturally lowers blood sugar by removing glucose from the bloodstream. Insulin resistance occurs when the body does not use insulin effectively enough, and more insulin is needed to compensate. When the body cannot produce enough insulin to keep the blood sugar regulated, type II diabetes can result.

Glucophage® can normally be taken without many side effects. When first starting the medication, patients might experience nausea, diarrhea, or other side effects, especially when taking the medication on an empty stomach, but these typically diminish once the patient’s body becomes accustomed to the medication. A rare but potentially very severe condition called lactic acidosis is also listed as a side effect. Lactic acidosis is one of the reasons doctors recommend avoiding consuming alcohol while taking Glucophage®, because alcohol can increase the chances that lactic acidosis will occur.

Glucophage® has a few off-label uses that are similar to its use as a diabetes treatment. It can be used, for example, to treat other conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), that are also associated with insulin resistance and may eventually lead to diabetes. Glucophage® is also sometimes taken specifically for weight loss in patients with diabetes or insulin resistance, the majority of whom are usually overweight or obese as a result of these conditions.

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