*This is a guest post from Barb Stephens from Drugwatch.com, a website which raises awareness to consumers about drug safety information.
There are more than 25 million Americans who have diabetes — that’s more than 8 percent of the population. You may be one of them. If you’re like the majority, you have type 2 diabetes, which means your body does not produce enough insulin or your cells do not use insulin efficiently.
Your doctor may prescribe one or more medications to help you control your diabetes. Make sure you are aware of the dangers of any drug you are given, as side effects for diabetes drugs can range in severity from minor pain to impaired vision to cancer and even death.
Drugs with Severe Side Effects
Thiazolidinediones are the most popular class of diabetes drugs. These medications work by increasing the sensitivity of cells to insulin. Unfortunately, the three drugs in this class have all had serious problems.
Rezulin was the first drug in this class, but it is no long available after being linked to liver failure.
Avandia (rosiglitazone) was the next hit in this class, but it too has been shown to cause severe side effects, including a higher risk of heart attack and liver failure.
Avandia is no longer available in U.S. pharmacies. A few patients still take it, but they have to go through a special program to have access.
Actos (pioglitazone), the world’s best-selling diabetes drug, has also been a huge disappointment.
Bladder cancer is one of the more dangerous side effects of Actos, and in some cases proves fatal.
One study showed that Actos (and Avandia) heighten risk for macular edema, which causes swelling in the eye. Another study showed that the same two drugs raise the risk of bone fractures in post-menopausal women.
Drugs with Less Severe Side Effects
There are other popular diabetes type 2 medications, which all come with common side effects (including low blood sugar). Most of these side effects are milder, like stomachaches, weight gain and gas. Many of these side effects will decrease as your body adjusts to the medication.
Biguanides work by preventing the liver from releasing a high amount of glucose.
Side effects may include nausea, metallic taste in mouth, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, gas and loss of appetite.
Sulphonylureas work to decrease blood sugar by stimulating insulin release from the pancreas.
If you retain water, have congestive heart failure, or have cirrhosis of the liver, approach with caution.
Side effects may include upset stomach, skin rash or itching, weight gain, breathing difficulties, drowsiness, muscle cramps, seizures and swelling of the face.
Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors stop enzymes that help digest starches, which prevents blood sugar from spiking.
Side effects may include upset stomach, diarrhea and gas.
Meglitnides stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin.
Side effects may include upset stomach.
D-Phenylalanine Derivatives stimulates insulin production after a meal.
Side effects may include dizziness and weight gain.
Dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV) inhibitors help insulin to work longer and prevent the liver from producing too much glucose.
Side effects include runny nose, sore throat and headaches.
While the FDA looks into the more serious side effects of these medications some patients have chosen to start filing cases against companies, an example being an Actos lawsuit after incidents of bladder cancer resulted when taking the medication for longer than a year.
You can take an active role in the health by alerting your doctor to any pre-existing conditions and any significant change in your health. You should also read all of the materials that come with your medication.
Author bio: Barb Stephens is a writer for Drugwatch.com. She uses her knowledge about medications to help raise awareness about drug safety and to educate consumers and patients.