Metformin

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Metformin is a medication used for type 2 diabetes but it is also regularly prescribed “off-label” to treat PCOS and its symptoms. Because many women with PCOS have insulin resistance, Metformin can encourage regular menstrual cycles, stimulate ovulation and lower the risk of miscarriage.

Prescribing “off-label” means to prescribe a drug for something not covered by the product license. It doesn’t mean that the drug is unsafe or unfit for purpose – just that the drug manufacturer has not extended the license to cover the additional use(s).

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Metformin tablet

Metformin tablets are often used to help to control blood glucose levels in patients that have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It is considered a first-line treatment, and is one of the most common medications used for managing the condition, alongside insulin.

Metformin tablets are usually prescribed when diet and lifestyle changes haven’t done enough to bring your blood glucose to a safe and normal level, and they can help you to manage your diabetes better, reducing the risk of hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar), hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), and other diabetes-related illnesses and symptoms.

Metformin is also prescribed in women who have a condition called PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), which helps lower weight, reduce insulin resistance, re-balance hormones, improve common symptoms of PCOS and help women become pregnant.

How does metformin work?

Metformin works by allowing your body to respond better to insulin, something that people with type 2 diabetes often struggle with. By allowing your body to utilise insulin in a better way, your blood glucose levels are more controlled, and often, metformin can be enough to bring your blood sugar into a normal range when used alongside a healthy lifestyle.

One of the most common problems with type 2 diabetes is that blood sugar levels are too high. Metformin helps to solve this problem by reducing how much sugar is produced within the liver, and subsequently how much is released into the blood. In turn, this allows the insulin in your body to remove any excess sugar, meaning that your blood glucose levels should stabilise at a normal level.

By controlling your blood glucose levels, you’ll be less likely to suffer from diabetes-related complications.

In PCOS, the drug has also been known to reduce excess hair and also improve the body’s response to insulin, as the condition can also make it difficult for the body to utilise the hormone in the right ways.

As many women with PCOS also struggle with insulin resistance, metformin works in a similar way to those with diabetes, but it’s important to know that taking metformin when you have PCOS doesn’t mean you have type 2 diabetes. However, certain complications of the condition such as insulin resistance can put you at higher risk of developing it. Although it is currently unlicensed for the condition in the UK, metformin helps women with PCOS by encouraging ovulation and boosting fertility; something that is often difficult.

In PCOS, the drug has also been known to reduce excess hair and also improve the body’s response to insulin, as the condition can also make it difficult for the body to utilise the hormone in the right ways.

Some GPs may refer you to an endocrinologist or gynaecologist if they think that metformin may be an option for you, but it’s rarely used as a first-line treatment for the condition due to the fact it is used off-label.

Metformin uses

Metformin’s primary use is to help with controlling blood sugar levels in those that have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but it is also sometimes prescribed for other conditions.

There is some strong evidence to suggest that metformin can help to delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes in people that are at risk of developing it, and doctors may prescribe it to patients that they think might benefit from it, but that aren’t yet classed as diabetic. Using metformin in a preventative way may help to stop the development of type-2 diabetes before other treatments are needed, such as insulin.

In addition to this, metformin is often prescribed to females that suffer with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), as it has been shown to help relieve some of the symptoms associated with the condition. Whilst not all women with PCOS need to take metformin, some are often prescribed it by their own doctor, as it shares some of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes such as insulin resistance, and is a risk factor for developing it if it is left untreated.

If you think metformin could help you, but you haven’t been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or PCOS, you should make an appointment with your own GP to discuss whether it would benefit you to add metformin to your treatments.

Metformin weight loss

Metformin may help some people to lose weight whilst taking it, but this isn’t guaranteed. It’s important to know that metformin isn’t a weight loss medication, and shouldn’t be taken for the sole purpose of losing weight. However, some patients that take metformin have found that their body weight has decreased – something which diabetes.co.uk attributes to the fact that metformin may help to lower appetite in some people that take it.

Many people that are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight, and weight loss has been proven to reduce some of the symptoms and complications associated with the condition, sometimes resulting in remission for some patients, but you shouldn’t rely on metformin to do this for you, as it may not work. However, if you follow a healthy diet and lifestyle whilst taking metformin, you’re more likely to lose weight than someone who eats a diet rich in sugars, fats and carbohydrates.