Ozempic side effects and how to avoid them
Ozempic is used to control high blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Just like other drugs, it can cause adverse reactions. The more common side effects of Ozempic tend to be diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. It’s important to talk to your healthcare professional for medical advice about possible side effects that trouble you or are persistent. Learn more about Ozempic side effects and how to avoid them.
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic is an FDA-approved prescription drug made by Novo Nordisk. It is used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes to prevent blood sugar from rising after eating, by slowing the rate of digestion and the release of insulin in your body.
This medicine is also used to lower the risk of a heart attack in type 2 diabetics. It causes your pancreas to secrete more insulin, helping to lower your blood sugar and reduce your risk of major cardiovascular events, like heart attacks and strokes, if you have heart disease.
Ozempic can help you lower your blood sugar levels when used alongside dietary and lifestyle changes. Ozempic is not used to treat type 1 diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis.
How does Ozempic work?
The active ingredient in Ozempic is semaglutide. It is classed as a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist (GLP-1 receptor agonist). Semaglutide reduces blood glucose through a mechanism where it stimulates insulin secretion and lowers glucagon secretion by selectively binding to and activating the GLP-1 receptor.
Unlike many other treatments for type 2 diabetes, semaglutide is not a type of insulin. It is a human hormone that acts on different parts of your body. Semaglutide encourages your pancreas to produce more insulin, helping to lower your blood sugar after you’ve eaten. It also appears to increase the growth of the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin (beta-cells).
The semaglutide injection is injected under the skin (subcutaneous) usually once every 7 days. The injection sites are the thigh, abdomen, or upper arm. The dose you receive is based on your medical condition and your response to treatment. If you miss your weekly dose of Ozempic and there are less than 3 days until your next dose, do not take the missed dose. The Ozempic injection can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
Why have I been prescribed Ozempic?
Ozempic is a diabetes medication that is likely to have been prescribed because the combination of improving diet, increasing exercise, bodyweight reduction, and metformin medication has not achieved adequate blood sugar control for you.
Ozempic is not approved for people with type 1 diabetes and should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Some of the advantages of taking Ozempic are suppression of hunger and modest weight loss, which are desirable for diabetics.
Do not use Ozempic if you have a personal or family history of thyroid tumors or thyroid cancer or if you have multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2.
Other common brands of GLP-1 receptor agonists are:
- Tanzeum – albiglutide
- Trulicity – dulaglutide
- Byetta – exenatide
- Bydureon Bcise – exenatide extended-release
- Victoza – liraglutide
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Ozempic side effects
The most common side effects of Ozempic include:
- Stomach pain
- Reactions at the injection site
In rare instances, Ozempic can cause more serious side effects, including:
- An increased risk of thyroid tumors, symptoms such as hoarseness, a lump or swelling in the throat
- Kidney problems, including kidney failure
- Serious allergic reactions cause swelling under your skin, normally in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet. Swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat leading to shortness of breath
- Inflammation of your pancreas (pancreatitis). Symptoms of pancreatitis include severe abdominal pain /stomach pain, nausea/vomiting that doesn’t stop
- Changes in your vision
- Very low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) causing shakiness, fast heartbeat
For medical advice about side effects, talk with your health care provider and also read the medication guide and instructions for use that comes with Ozempic.
Ozempic drug interactions
- Any medications you take orally to reduce the risk of blood clots (oral anticoagulants) like warfarin
- Insulin – Ozempic can be used alongside insulin, but your doctor may change the dose of insulin you take and/or how often you use insulin
- Any other medications that are taken to treat type 2 diabetes
Ozempic warnings & precautions
Don’t take Ozempic if you:
- Are allergic to the active ingredient semaglutide, or any of the other ingredients in Ozempic
- Have had, or anyone in your family has had a type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC)
- Have an endocrine system condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2)
- Have pancreatitis
- Have type 1 diabetes (Ozempic is for type 2 diabetes only)
- Are under 18 years of age
Talk to your doctor before taking Ozempic if you:
- Have had any problems with your pancreas or kidneys
- Have ever had diabetic retinopathy
- Are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant
- Are breastfeeding or are planning to breastfeed
Always speak to your healthcare provider for medical advice regarding drug interactions, taking supplements, taking over-the-counter medications, and drinking alcohol when using Ozempic. Healthcare professionals are the most reliable and accurate source of drug information. They can also provide you with a medication guide for each drug you take.
How to avoid Ozempic side effects
1. Stick to the recommended dosage
Take your prescribed dose that has been recommended by your healthcare professional once per week, on the same day of the week, as a subcutaneous injection in the upper arm, abdomen, or thigh to prevent you from forgetting your dose. Taking your medication consistently will make a big difference in how well Ozempic works for you.
Your healthcare provider may adjust the dose of Ozempic or your other medications to find the best dosage for your specific needs.
2. Rotating insulin injection sites
The importance of rotating insulin injection sites is to reduce reactions at the site of the injection, to maintain effective insulin absorption and reduce small fatty lumps or hard lumps that could develop in areas that are continuously used as injection sites. These can interfere with insulin absorption and also cause discomfort. Switching between injecting sites such as the left and right arm or right and left thigh, and moving injection sites within the area will help prevent problems.
3. Store Ozempic correctly
Ozempic should be stored correctly at room temperature (68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit) and the needle disposed of correctly. Ozempic should be stored in a dry place in its original container.
Knowing how to store your medication is important to make sure it remains as effective as possible. Using expired or improperly stored medication could result in the medication not working properly and even causing unwanted side effects.
4. Discuss medical history
Discussing your medical history with your healthcare provider is important to help them understand how well Ozempic will work for you. Give a complete list of all the prescription drugs, including over-the-counter meds, supplements, and medical conditions you may have. Talking with your doctor will allow them to pick up any drug interactions with Ozempic and help manage any possible side effects.
5. Reduce alcohol intake
Excessive alcohol intake increases your chance of developing chronic inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis. This condition leads to permanent damage to the pancreas and its ability to manage the production, storage, and release of insulin.
If you are planning to drink alcohol and you have diabetes, aim to always stay within the recommended guidelines. This is the safest way to drink alcohol.
6. Pay attention to your body
Paying attention to how your body feels when taking Ozempic is important, as uncontrolled blood sugar can be fatal. Seek immediate medical attention if you feel your blood sugar levels are uncontrolled. Talk to your doctor straight away if you start to experience any side effects of Ozempic when taking it, and if you feel the medication is not working for you.