In this drug factsheet:
What side effects are possible with this medication?
Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.
The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.
The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.
Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.
- abdominal or stomach pain
- bloating or gas
Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not seek medical attention.
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:
Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.
Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?
Before you begin taking a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.
Decreased response: Over a period of time, blood glucose may be less easily controlled with acarbose or other diabetes medications because of worsening of diabetes. If acarbose fails to lower your blood glucose to target levels, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may stop and replace acarbose or have another blood glucose-lowering medication added to it.
Diabetes complications: Acarbose (or any other antidiabetic agent) has not been shown to prevent the development of complications peculiar to diabetes, although the onset of such complications is delayed by good blood glucose control.
Diet: Acarbose must be taken along with a proper dietary regimen and not seen as a substitute for diet.
Illness or stress: It is possible to lose control of blood sugar during illness or stressful situations such as infection, trauma, or surgery. Under these conditions, your doctor may consider stopping the medication and prescribe insulin until the situation improves.
Liver or kidney disease: If you have kidney or liver disease you should use caution while taking acarbose and should be closely monitored by your doctor.
Low blood sugar: Because of the way it works, acarbose will not cause low blood sugar when taken on its own. However, acarbose may increase the risk of low blood sugar caused by sulfonylurea medications such as glyburide if taken at the same time. See information on glyburide for further details about signs and management of low blood sugar.
Sucrose usage: Increased use of sucrose (cane sugar) and foods that contain sugar or starch can lead to stomach problems (e.g., flatulence and bloating) as well as loose stools and, occasionally, diarrhea.
Pregnancy: There are no adequate and well-controlled studies on the use acarbose by pregnant women. This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.
Breast-feeding: It is not known if acarbose passes into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are taking this medication, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.
Children: The safety and effectiveness of acarbose for children and adolescents less than 18 years old have not been established.
What other drugs could interact with this medication?
There may be an interaction between acarbose and any of the following:
- corticosteroids (e.g., prednisone)
- digestive enzyme preparations (e.g., amylase, pancreatin)
- diuretics (e.g., hydrochlorothiazide, furosemide)
- estrogens (e.g., oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy)
- intestinal absorbents (e.g., charcoal)
- nicotinic acid
- phenothiazines (e.g., promethazine)
- sympathomimetic medications (e.g., epinephrine, pseudoephedrine)
- thyroid products (e.g., levothyroxine)
If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:
- stop taking one of the medications,
- change one of the medications to another,
- change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
- leave everything as is.
An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.
Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.