Metformin is a medication many people have to take for blood sugar problems. Unfortunately, like almost any medication, Metformin comes with a list of possible side effects, some of which can be quite serious.
Does Metformin cause hair loss? The short answer is that it can contribute to hair loss but isn’t known for causing hair loss directly. Instead, it can cause certain things in your body to get imbalanced. This imbalance then causes your hair fall to increase.
This is great news since it gives you an opportunity to catch whatever problem Metformin is causing you before it starts impacting your hair growth. So, let’s see what Metformin is, what its side effects are, how these affect your hair, and what you can do about it.
What Is Metformin?
Drugs.com is a good place to start for information about medications. As for Metformin, this is placed in the drug category of insulin response enhancers, also called Biguanides. Metformin has several brand names, the most popular of which are Glucophage, Fortamet, Glucophage XR, Glumetza, and Riomet.
Metformin is used primarily to treat type 2 diabetes, usually along with a proper diet and exercise program. In some cases, another medication in addition to Metformin is used to keep high blood sugar under control.
Metformin can be used as a liquid, being measured with a syringe or dosing spoon. There are also two types of tablets you can swallow. The extended-release is in a capsule that they warn may be seen in your stool undigested.
It works by lowering the amount of glucose your intestines absorb, thereby lowering how much gets into your blood. Metformin also decreases how much glucose your liver makes in addition to helping insulin be more effective should Metformin not be enough on its own to keep your blood sugar in check.
There are a few precautions that come with Metformin. For example, women are supposed to talk with their doctor before becoming pregnant if they are on it. You should also limit your alcohol intake when taking Metformin.
It is also strongly recommended that Metformin be taken with dinner to avoid an upset stomach. As it does affect your blood sugar, you should check your glucose levels regularly. However, those are common things when taking almost any type of medication.
Less common is that you should seek medical care if Metformin causes trouble breathing. Though Drugs.com doesn’t explain why, they also say you should tell your MD you are using it before any X-ray or CT-type tests that involve dye going into your blood vessels.
What Side Effects Does Metformin Have?
As mentioned, Metformin has side effects that you should pay attention to. In all, these aren’t better or worse than the side effects of most medications you might need to take.
Side effects that are listed as common for Metformin include: nausea, vomiting, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, abdominal distention, dysgeusia, headache, dizziness, dyspepsia, rhinitis, hyperhidrosis, heart palpitations, upper respiratory infections, Vitamin B deficiencies, and nail disorders.
Since it lowers your glucose, there may be times when it does its job too well and causes you to have low blood sugar. Signs of this are feeling very hungry, dizzy, irritable, confused, anxious, or shaky. Your doctor may recommend a glucagon injection kit for severe hypoglycemia.
Additionally, you may not be able to use Metformin if you have kidney disease, metabolic acidosis, or diabetic ketoacidosis. This is because Metformin may make these worse, which is obviously undesirable.
Though rare, it is possible Metformin may cause lactic acidosis. This is where lactic acid builds up to dangerous levels in your blood. Factors that can increase the likelihood of this are chronic alcoholism, being 65 or older, or if you have other medical conditions.
Some signs of this that should cause you to get emergency medical help are unusual muscle pain, stomach pain, feeling cold, trouble breathing, dizziness, slow heartbeat, or feeling very weak or tired.
Next, Metformin can also affect your hormones enough to increase the likelihood of pregnancy. You may need to use a different type of birth control to counteract this, which should be discussed with your doctor.
Finally, there is a possibility you can be allergic to Metformin. If you are, you will have hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling in your face, mouth, and throat, almost as soon as you take it.
Can Metformin Cause Hair Loss?
As you may have noticed, most of those side effects involve your stomach. If you consider that Metformin works in your stomach to prevent the absorption of glucose, it makes sense that your stomach could have issues.
The B vitamins are particularly necessary for hair growth. So, if you get deficient in your Bs, you may have hair thinning. Though Vitamin B is the only one people taking Metformin are known to get depleted of, it is possible there is a slight effect on other vitamins.
A deficiency in any vitamin is enough to cause hair loss eventually, though it may take time for you to see it. And that is besides sudden weight loss being known to cause hair loss as well, even when getting enough vitamins.
Toxicity of any type can also cause hair loss. Lactic acidosis, metabolic acidosis, and diabetic ketoacidosis are all types of toxicity that Metformin can cause.
Metabolic acidosis is your pH being out of balance. One of its known symptoms is hair loss. Diabetic ketoacidosis is known to be a major stressor on the body that can also cause hair loss.
In short, Metformin has a number of side effects that can further affect you and cause hair loss. You may need to get testing done by your doctor to determine which one is affecting your hair.
Finally, keep in mind that blood sugar problems can cause hair loss all by itself. So, your hair loss may be due to that and not the medication you are taking for it. In fact, if your hair loss is caused by your blood pressure, using Metformin to get it under control will help.
What You Can Do About It
There are situations where you must take Metformin due to having type 2 diabetes. Though you can and should ask your doctor, there probably aren’t any other medications you can take instead of it.
Another option is to work with your doctor to find another way of keeping your blood sugar under control. If you can get on a strict diet, for example, your doctor may let you switch to a different medication that isn’t as likely to affect your hair.
Taking Vitamin B supplements is particularly important. Vitamin B12 is the main B many people taking Metformin end up lacking. Therefore, a B complex with a particularly high amount of that is best.
In addition, you should consider taking a multivitamin or a hair growth vitamin. Just be sure that the vitamin you choose doesn’t have any herbs that affect your blood sugar. You should also avoid herbal teas and other things that might interfere with the Metformin.
Topical treatments can be helpful, such as hair masks, serums, oils, hair growth shampoos, red light therapy, and other options. Hair loss treatments such as Minoxidil may not be advisable, but your doctor can tell you if you can use it or not.
Since high blood pressure can cause lots of stress on our body, anything you can do to relieve stress will help. This includes everything from trying to avoid stressful situations to not overly exhausting yourself when you exercise.
Getting sick or injured is stressful to your body too. So, try to take care of yourself and avoid being around people who might be contagious if you can. Get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol entirely, as it makes more work for your liver on top of affecting your blood sugar.
Metformin is a very useful medication for those with high blood sugar problems. Combined with diet and exercise, Metformin might be exactly what you need to keep your blood sugar intact. This can make it particularly disheartening if it causes you to have hair loss.
So, take whatever precautions you can to keep your hair growing if you must take this medication. If you take Metformin and have any other tips for keeping your hair healthy, I’d love to know what they are in the comments below!