Prescription medications can offer benefits and improve health conditions in some patients, but they also come with some side effects.
Glipizide is a medication to treat type 2 diabetes that comes with possible side effects and risks that patients should consider.
What is glipizide?
Glipizide is a type of oral medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. The common brand names of glipizide include Glucotrol and Glucotrol XL. (1)
Glipizide is part of a class of medication called sulfonylureas. A sulfonylurea medication like glipizide helps lower your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels by increasing insulin secretion in your pancreas.
Other popular types of sulfonylurea medication to treat type 2 diabetes include glyburide and glimepiride. Glyburide is associated with an increased risk of hypoglycemia compared to glipizide and glimepiride.
Glipizide is prescribed in dosages ranging from 5 to 40 milligrams per day, with 40 milligrams being the maximum daily dose for regular release glipizide. The maximum daily dose for Glucotrol XL/glipizide ER is 20 milligrams per day.
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How glipizide works for diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of insulin resistance and lack of insulin production by the beta cells in your pancreas. When you don’t have enough insulin (the hormone that lowers your blood glucose levels), your blood sugar levels will be higher than what’s considered healthy.
Chronic high blood sugar can lead to complications like nerve damage, poor wound healing, increased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, kidney damage, and other health issues.
Managing your blood sugar levels (whether through a healthy lifestyle or with the help of medications) is the best way to prevent diabetes complications.
Glipizide helps your pancreas secrete more insulin from its beta cells to help promote healthy blood sugar levels. Regular glipizide (not glipizide ER/Glucotrol XL) is meant to be taken at meals to help prevent high blood sugar levels after eating. Taking glipizide with meals can also help prevent hypoglycemia.
Side effects of glipizide
Like all medications, glipizide comes with potential side effects. Some of the most common glipizide side effects include:
- Muscle Tremors
Some of the less common glipizide side effects include:
- Blurred vision
- Burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, “pins and needles,” or tingling feelings
- Cold sweats
- Cool, pale skin
- Difficulty with moving
- Fast heartbeat
- Increased hunger
- Joint pain
- Leg cramps
- Muscle aching or cramping
- Muscle pain or stiffness
- Problems in urination or increased urination
- Slurred speech
- Swollen joints
- Unusual tiredness or weakness
Potential rare side effects of taking glipizide include:
- Abdominal or stomach pain
- Bloody or black, tarry stools
- Body aches or pain
- Burning, dry, or itching eyes
- Clay-colored stools
- Dark urine
- Decreased vision or other changes in vision
- Difficult or labored breathing
- Difficult or painful urination
- Dryness or soreness of the throat
- Excessive tearing
- Fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat
- Feeling of warmth
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in the eye
- Pounding in the ears
- Redness of the face, neck, arms, and upper chest
- Redness, pain, or swelling of the eye, eyelid, or inner lining of the eyelid
- Runny nose
- Severe stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
- Tender, swollen glands in the neck
- Tightness in the chest
- Trouble in swallowing
- Unpleasant breath odor
- Voice changes
- Vomiting of blood or material that looks like coffee grounds
- Yellow eyes or skin
Potential complications of taking glipizide
One of the biggest potential complications of taking glipizide is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Glipizide can cause low blood sugar because it increases insulin secretion, which lowers blood sugar levels.
Low blood sugar usually isn’t life-threatening if it’s not severe. However, if you develop severe hypoglycemia, it can cause fainting, coma, and death.
Some of the symptoms of low blood sugar to be aware of while taking glipizide include:
- Fast heartbeat
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Irritability or confusion
Low blood sugar is defined as any blood glucose level below 70 mg/dL. If you’ve had diabetes for a long time or have had many incidences of low blood sugar in the past, you might not feel symptoms until your blood sugar is much lower than 70 mg/dL.
Treating low blood sugar on glipizide
If you experience low blood sugar on glipizide, you should treat it by eating or drinking something containing 15 grams of carbohydrate.
Fruit juice and candies are ideal since they are rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream. It doesn’t take much juice to treat low blood sugar – about one-half cup of juice contains around 15 grams of carbohydrates.
After taking some carbohydrates, you should recheck your blood sugar in 15 minutes. If your blood sugar levels aren’t increasing enough, you should repeat the treatment and retest your blood sugar in another 15 minutes.
You should repeat this process until your blood sugar is at your target level (usually at least 70 mg/dL). If your blood sugar isn’t increasing despite treatment, contact your healthcare provider for medical advice.
Ways to reduce the side effects of glipizide
Take glipizide as prescribed
You can help lower your chances of developing glipizide by taking it as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Don’t increase your dose or take multiple tablets at once if you miss a dose because that can cause hypoglycemia.
Eat consistent meals
Taking glipizide helps lower blood sugar levels. If you don’t eat consistent meals or you skip meals, glipizide might lower your blood sugar too much. This is especially true if you eat a very low carbohydrate diet, such as a ketogenic diet.
If you decide to switch to a very low carbohydrate diet, seek medical advice from your healthcare provider so they can advise you on what to do as far as your glipizide dose.
Take glipizide with meals
Not only can taking glipizide with meals help reduce your hypoglycemia risk, but it may help reduce the risk of gastrointestinal upset like nausea, gas, diarrhea, and stomach upset.
Educate friends and family on the symptoms of hypoglycemia
If you haven’t taken a diabetes medication that can cause low blood sugar before, you should ensure your family, close friends, coworkers, etc., understand the signs of low blood sugar.
This way, they can better help you if you experience low blood sugar when you’re in their company, especially if it’s severe hypoglycemia.
Keep glucose tablets or juice boxes in your car, while traveling, etc.
Low blood sugar can strike at any time, so it’s good to be prepared. Keep glucose tablets, candy, or juice boxes with you when you’re traveling, and make sure you have them on hand at home at all times.
Don’t take glipizide if you’re allergic to it
Symptoms of an allergic reaction include trouble breathing and swelling of your tongue and/or airway.
Tell your pharmacist of any other medications you’re taking
For information on glipizide interactions, pharmacists can notify you if glipizide will cause a drug interaction with other types of medication you’re taking.
Be cautious with your alcohol intake
Drinking alcohol while taking glipizide increases your risk of developing hypoglycemia. Avoid drinking more than one drink daily if you’re a woman and more than two drinks daily if you’re a man.
If you choose to drink alcohol while on glipizide, avoid binge drinking or drinking on an empty stomach. Drink plenty of fluids and eat a meal before or during your drink to help reduce the chances of developing hypoglycemia.
Avoid during pregnancy
Glipizide is a category C medication, which means it may cause harm to an unborn baby if taken by the mother during pregnancy. That rating means that, according to animal studies, glipizide was found to harm the fetus (baby). Still, there aren’t any studies on humans to determine if glipizide is safe during pregnancy.
If you’re taking glipizide and get pregnant, seek medical advice from your healthcare provider right away to determine the next best step to manage your diabetes during pregnancy.
Don’t take it with insulin (unless directed by your healthcare provider)
Insulin and glipizide shouldn’t be taken together because of the higher risk of developing low blood sugar.
The most common glipizide side effects are gastrointestinal-related, such as nausea and having an upset stomach. Other common glipizide side effects include headache, dizziness, and drowsiness.
Taking glipizide increases your risk of developing hypoglycemia by increasing insulin secretion, so you should take steps to prevent low blood sugar while taking glipizide.