These Popular Diabetes Medications Have Horrible Side Effects

When it comes to the treatment of diabetes, there’s still a lot we don’t know — and there are also a lot of myths and misconceptions regarding the disease that may delay a diagnosis. Once you’ve officially been diagnosed by a doctor, the next step is to create a treatment plan, which often includes medication.

Any medication has the potential to have side effects, and more often than not, the pros outweigh the cons. But just like any other ailment, the drugs used to treat diabetes can sometimes do more harm than good.

Natural treatments for diabetes

young man using lancelet on finger

If you have Type 1 diabetes you will have to take insulin every day. |

Some people with Type 2 diabetes are able to treat their condition without drugs. But even if they do a great job with their diet and exercise, it’s not uncommon to need medication eventually — and if you have Type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to take insulin daily at the very least.

No diabetes medication is free from side effects, but these are some of the worst offenders.

Biguanides (Metformin)

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These pills are meant to lower your blood sugar levels. |

Biguanides lower blood sugar by decreasing the amount of sugar made by the liver, thus decreasing the need for insulin. Side effects, such as upset stomach and decreased appetite, are generally mild. However, some patients experience an interference with vitamin B12 absorption, which can lead to other health problems. And although it is rare, Metformin can cause lactic acidosis, a serious condition that occurs due to the accumulation of acid in the body.


bottle pouring pills

Meglitinides can cause you to gain weight. |

Meglitinides increase the amount of insulin produced by the pancreas, which lowers the blood sugar. The most common side effects are are hypoglycemia and weight gain, although the risk for either is relatively low. Occasionally, patients complain of hives, joint pain, or even seizures and breathing troubles.

SGLT-2 inhibitors

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SGLT-2 inhibitors stop the reabsorption of glucose by the kidney. |

SGLT2 is a protein that assists with glucose reabsorption in the kidney. SGLT2 inhibitors block the reabsorption of glucose in the kidney, increase glucose excretion, and lower blood glucose levels. This is all great for diabetes patients, but side effects can be severe: Yeast infections, UTIs, severe dehydration, and an increase in cholesterol levels are all fairly common. A more severe potential side effect is bladder cancer. Yikes.

Bile acid sequestrants

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These pills may cause heartburn. |

Bile acid sequestrants are often prescribed for high cholesterol, although they’re sometimes used in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes. Unpleasant side effects include heartburn, nausea, stomach pain, constipation, and indigestion. They may also lead to an increase in triglyceride levels.


female feet on a weighing scale

Nateglinide may cause you to gain weight. |

Nateglinide is often used with other diabetes medications. Side effects often include weight gain, cold and flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, nausea, back pain, and dizziness. More severe side effects are less common, but scary: chills, cold sweats, dizziness, headaches, and fainting have all been reported.

Stay informed

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It’s extremely important that you take care of yourself. | MangoStar_Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Other than taking care of your body by eating properly, getting enough exercise, and staying hydrated and rested, the best way to ensure you have a good experience with your diabetes medication is to stay informed. Diabetes drugs are great for keeping your blood sugars in check, and knowing about their potential side effects and interactions will help you stay on top of things. Avoid any drugs that clash with your medication and see your doctor at the first sign of harmful side effects.

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