The medication metformin is a drug in the biguanide family that is used to treat type 2 or adult-onset diabetes mellitus. Drugs.com notes that metformin is often the first prescribed medication for individuals with type 2 diabetes and may also be used in combination with other diabetes medications or insulin. This medication is sold under the brand name Glucophage, Glucophage XR and Fortamet. Metformin helps to reduce glycemic or sugar levels in the blood in a number of ways. If an individual with type 2 diabetes stops taking metformin, they may experience serious immediate and long-term effects of uncontrolled high levels of blood glucose.
A primary mode of action of metformin is increasing the sensitivity of the body’s muscles, tissues and cells to insulin--a hormone that is essential for transporting glucose from the blood to the body. Drugs.com notes that individuals with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance. This causes the cells to ignore the effects of insulin and not allow glucose to be transported into the muscles and tissues where it is vital to produce energy. The body tries to compensate by secreting more insulin, which only leads to hyperinsulinemia in the blood. If a patient stops taking metformin, the type 2 diabetes effects occur due to insulin resistance causing symptoms such as severe thirst, hunger and urinary frequency. The chronic levels of hyperinsulinemia and hyperglycemia also contribute to diseases of the heart and vascular-blood vessel-system.
Gluconeogenesis is the production of glucose by the liver. A storage supply of glucose is reserved in the liver and released into the bloodstream when the body requires energy due to stress or hunger. The MayoClinic.com notes that another one of the mechanisms of metformin to reduce blood glucose is suppressing gluconeogenesis so that hyperglycemia or high levels of blood glucose do not occur. If a diabetic patient ceases to take metformin or misses too many doses, glucose entry into the muscles and tissues of the body will decrease. The brain will then stimulate the liver to release glucose and hyperglycemia will occur.
Increased Glucose Absorption
The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that metformin also works to decrease blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes by slowing or delaying the absorption of food glucose from the intestines. This prevents blood glucose levels from escalating suddenly after the patient eats a meal. If metformin dosages are stopped, the patient will experience poor glucose control and spiking blood glucose levels after eating a meal or a sweet snack. Fluctuating levels of blood glucose have short-term effects such as sudden increased secretions of insulin and long-term effects such as atherosclerosis or stiffening of the arteries in diabetic patients.