What are alpha-glucosidase inhibitors drugs?

Acarbose and miglitol are medications for type 2 diabetes that help keep your blood sugar levels within a normal range by slowing your body’s digestion of complex carbohydrates such as bread, cereal, grain, pasta, etc. However, unlike other diabetes medication, they do not cause your pancreas to produce more insulin and will not affect how your body processes sugars.

The medications are taken when you start eating and they are suitable if your blood sugar tends to spike right after eating complex carbohydrates or starches (postprandial hyperglycemia).

Unless they are taken with other diabetes drugs like insulin, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors are not likely to cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). They prove most effective when combined with a healthy diet and active lifestyle.

Brand names

The following are available brands of alpha-glucosidase inhibitors:

  • Precose (acarbose)
  • Glyset (miglitol)

Side effects

All medications have some side effects. Most symptoms are mild and usually fade as your body adjusts to the medicine.

Common negative effects include:

  • Passing gas
  • Bloating
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea

If the side effects do not go away, tell your doctor or health care provider, who may wish to adjust your dosage or switch your medication.

Eating foods low in carbohydrates may help alleviate gas. Your doctor could also prescribe a low dose of alpha-glucosidase inhibitors to begin with to ease gas symptoms and then gradually increase the dose. If you usually have digestive problems, you may need to take a different medication.

If you have any of these symptoms, you should inform your doctor right away:

  • Hives (skin rash)
  • Jaundice (yellow eyes and skin)

You should get emergency advice immediately if you have any of these severe side effects:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling (of your throat, lips, face or tongue)

Although drugs do not tend to cause weight gain or low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia), you may experience these symptoms if you also take other diabetes medication. Drinking alcohol, exercising or skipping meals may also lower your blood sugar levels.

If your blood sugar does drop suddenly, you should eat a sugary snack (other than table sugar or soda pop) to bring it back up within a normal range.

It’s a good idea to tell your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to conceive, since some over-the-counter supplements and products may not be suitable to take with alpha-glucosidase inhibitors and could potentially hurt your baby.

Since the symptoms of type 2 diabetes can progressively worsen, it is crucial that you and your doctor carefully monitor your condition and keep track of any routine tests. Your medications and dosage may need to change over time.

Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.