Metformin, also sold under the brand name Glucophage, is an oral drug used to treat or prevent diabetes. As long as the patient has normal kidney function, this drug is used by overweight and obese people who have type two diabetes. It is also used to combat insulin resistance, especially in women afflicted with Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.
First discovered in the 1920s, widespread interest and further studies into Metformin were not conducted until the 1940s. Advances in insulin treatment stalled progress and shifted focus to treating diabetes directly rather than attempting to avoid it entirely. In the 1970s, prevention once again came to the forefront and the drug was then approved for use in Canada in 1974. It wasn't until 1994 that the FDA approved Metformin in the United States for use as an anti-diabetic medication.
Metformin works by lowering the insulin levels in the patient's bloodstream, as well as modestly lowering LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels that contribute to strokes and heart disease. Since a large percentage of people with type two diabetes are overweight or obese, these side effects are beneficial to the patient and do no harm. In fact, Metformin is noted as having no effect on weight, which further assists diabetics with blood sugar control. The most common negative side effect is stomach upset and may include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive flatulence, and abdominal cramps.
For diabetics, Metformin is one facet of a health plan that also includes dietary counseling and insulin to control weight and blood sugar levels. All of these parts of the health plan aid the patient in keeping blood sugar levels low, steady, and carefully controlled. Metformin and diet modification are also both used to treat the symptoms Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.
Doctors have also used Metformin for off-label uses. Some studies have shown success in using it to avoid the onset of type two diabetes in at-risk individuals. It has also been used in some observational studies involving pregnant women afflicted with gestational diabetes. However, the long-term effects on both mother and fetus are unknown. Most doctors recommend discontinuing Metformin once the pregnancy is discovered, simply to be safe.
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