Metformin FAQs

What is metformin?

Metformin is a medication commonly used to help p­­eople living with type 2 diabetes manage their blood glucose levels. It belongs to the class of medications called Biguanides, which include brand names such as Diabex, Diaformin, Formet, Glucobete, Glucomet, Glucophage, Metex XR and Metforbell.

Metformin can be taken as two different types of tablet, a standard-release and a slow-release. The type of tablet you take will determine how often you have to take metformin.

  • Standard-release tablets release metformin into your body quickly. They may need to be taken several times a day depending on your prescription and your doctor’s advice.
  • Slow-release tablets dissolve slowly and usually only need to be taken once a day, generally in the morning. ­

If you struggle with the side effects of metformin it’s possible your doctor will switch you from a standard-release to a slow-release tablet.

How does it work?

Metformin helps to lower blood glucose levels by:

  • Reducing the amount of glucose released from the liver
  • Slowing glucose release from the gut
  • Improving insulin sensitivity

Metformin can also be taken in combination with other classes of tablets and/or insulin if needed.

Why do people with type 2 diabetes need to take it?

When you’re first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes making lifestyle changes, such as adjusting your diet and exercising more frequently, will help you manage your blood glucose levels. However, type 2 diabetes can get worse over time, and eventually most people will eventually need medication to help lower their blood glucose levels. The first choice is often metformin.

 Should everyone living with type 2 diabetes be taking Metformin?

Metformin can be taken by adults and children from the age of 10 on the advice of a doctor If you end up taking metformin, it will be a decision you make in conjunction  with your doctor..

Metformin isn’t suitable for all people living with type 2 diabetes. In particular, anyone with liver or kidney problems should not go on Metformin.

How much metformin should I take?

Your doctor will prescribe the correct dosage for you. It’s likely that you will start metformin at a low dosage and gradually increase it over a few weeks to help reduce any side effects.

What are the side effects?

Metformin, like most drugs, comes with a series of mild side effects. These can include feeling sick, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach ache and a loss of appetite. Taking metformin with a meal can help reduce the side effects. As with all medications, if the side effects are out of the norm or causing concern it’s important to contact your doctor immediately.

Unlike some other medication used to treat type 2 diabetes, metformin does not result in weight gain.

If I take metformin, does this mean I don’t need to worry about diet and exercise?

A healthy lifestyle will always help in managing your blood glucose levels and will keep you in good health. A well-balanced diet and regular exercise has a multitude of benefits – you can find out more from the NDSS information sheets here.

If you have more questions about metformin or living with type 2 diabetes, contact your doctor or a Diabetes Educator through the NDSS Helpline on 1300 136 588.

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