Metformin hydrochloride, or HCL, is an oral medication available by prescription. The medication works along with a proper diet and exercise to lower blood glucose levels in diabetic patients and for other purposes determined by a physician. Due to possible complications and side effects, close monitoring of kidney function and blood sugar levels will help determine if the medication is safe for the individual.
Patients use metformin HCL to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus. This form of diabetes is non-insulin dependent and the body allows unused sugars to increase in the bloodstream. Metformin works to lower the blood sugar level, but does not affect the production of insulin.
Women may also take the medication to treat polycystic ovary syndrome, as it helps stimulate the ovaries to release an egg.
Availability and Dosing
Metformin HCL is available in regular and extended-release oral tablets. Physicians prescribe regular 500 mg tablets for administration in divided doses throughout the day, while extended-release medication administration occurs with the evening meal each day, according to RxList.com. A physician may change the dosage amounts depending on blood sugar levels. A typical starting dosage of metformin is 500 mg twice daily, according to MayoClinic.com.
To reduce the likelihood of side effects, metformin should be taken with meals. Swallowing the extended-release tablet whole, without crushing or chewing, is important for proper release of the medication in the body. Store the medication at room temperature and away from children.
Metformin may cause unwanted side effects. Adverse reactions generally decrease with continued use of a medication. Individuals experiencing any side effects that are bothersome or increase in intensity need to contact a physician. Common side effects of metformin HCL include decreased appetite and weight loss, flatulence and gastric distress, according to MayoClinic.com.
A rare and possibly life threatening side effect of taking metformin is a condition that causes lactic acid to build up in the blood, called lactic acidosis. Lactic acidosis can cause weakness, dizziness, decreased body temperature, decreased heart rate and muscle pain, according to Drugs.com.
Drinking alcohol while taking metformin may cause an unhealthy decrease in blood sugar levels and increases the risk of developing lactic acidosis. Carrying a medical identification card or wearing a medical alert bracelet identifying yourself as taking metformin hydrochloride for diabetes can help speed emergency treatment for sudden changes in blood sugar levels.
You may no longer respond to the medication after a period of use and blood sugar levels can rise despite taking metformin HCL. Changes in medications may become necessary if this occurs. Individuals with kidney disease or congestive heart failure should not take metformin.