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Ozempic side effects and how to avoid them

Ozempic side effects and how to avoid them

28 Apr 2023
Stefano Mirabello Medical Reviewer
Pharmacist / B.Pharm

Ozempic is the brand name of the active ingredient semaglutide, which is manufactured by Novo Nordisk. It is an injectable prescription medication used to treat high blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes. It has also been shown to improve cardiovascular health for people who live with type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Ozempic does not treat type 1 diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis.

It works by mimicking the action of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which helps to lower blood sugar levels. While Ozempic is effective in controlling diabetes, there are some potential side effects that patients should be aware of. In this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the most common Ozempic side effects and provide tips on how to avoid them.

How soon do ozempic side effects start?

Common side effects of Ozempic include nausea, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting. Clinical trials have shown that approximately 5% of patents who trialled Ozempic, experienced those side effects.  The side effects usually start within the first few weeks of starting therapy, however, most people experience side effects during dose escalation.

Nausea and Vomiting

One of the most common side effects of Ozempic is gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and constipation. The reason behind these unpleasant symptoms is that Ozempic slows down the movement of food through your stomach and intestines. This can occur particularly during the first few weeks of starting the medication as your body adjusts to the medication. Fortunately, this is usually a minor short-term issue that resolves once your body adjusts to the medication.

How to avoid nausea and vomiting when using Ozempic

To avoid this side effect, it’s recommended that Ozempic is started by prescribing a lower dose and slowly increasing it over time. By starting on a low dose your body has the chance to get used to the drug before the next dose is increased. Additionally, patients should avoid large or fatty meals, which can exacerbate nausea and vomiting. Also, make sure to take the medication at the same time each day and with a meal to help reduce the severity of any potential side effects.

Flatulence, burping and bloating

If you’re on Ozempic or considering taking it, it’s important to understand why gas, burping, and bloating can happen as a side effect. Ozempic works by adjusting the way your body processes glucose (sugar). This can lead to slower digestion, which means food stays in your stomach longer as it’s being broken down. As your stomach works on digesting, it produces additional gas, which can lead to that uncomfortable bloating feeling and stomach pain.

How to avoid flatulence, burping and bloating when using Ozempic

To help reduce these symptoms, try eating smaller, more frequent meals to help your stomach process food more efficiently. You can take a short walk after eating or try some gentle yoga poses to help move things along. Additionally, staying hydrated, getting enough fibre in your diet, avoiding spicy, fatty and calorie-dense foods may also help alleviate these symptoms.

Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar

If you’re taking Ozempic, it’s important to be aware of the potential side effect of hypoglycemia. This occurs when your blood sugar drops too low, leading to symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, shakiness and a fast heart rate. The reason for this side effect is that Ozempic works by reducing the amount of sugar produced by the liver and increasing the amount of insulin in your body. This can occur particularly if the medication is taken with other diabetes medications such as metformin, which lowers blood sugar levels. While this is a beneficial action for managing diabetes, it can sometimes lead to too much insulin being present, making your blood sugar levels drop too low.

How to avoid hypoglycemia or low blood when using Ozempic

To avoid this, it’s important to monitor your blood sugar levels closely and to follow your healthcare provider’s advice for adjusting your medication dosage as needed. Additionally, it’s important to make sure you’re eating regular meals and snacks and avoiding excessive physical activity without properly fueling your body. By taking these precautions, you can help reduce the risk of experiencing hypoglycemia while taking Ozempic.

Injection Site Reactions

You may have come across the term “injection site reaction” as a possible side effect. But what exactly does that mean and why does it happen? Injection site reactions are caused by the body’s immune system reacting to the foreign substance (in this case, Ozempic) that has been injected. This can result in redness, swelling and soreness at the injection site. While this type of reaction is common with many subcutaneous injections, some people may be more prone to it because of factors like skin sensitivity or improper injection technique.

How to avoid injection site reactions when using Ozempic

To minimise the likelihood of experiencing these reactions, it’s recommended that you rotate injection sites and avoid injecting into areas with lumps, bumps or scars. You can also try applying a cold compress to the site before and after injection to reduce inflammation. Also, make sure the injection site is clean before injecting. It’s also best to consult with your doctor if you’re unsure how to administer your Ozempic correctly.

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is a condition that occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed, which can be painful and dangerous. Unfortunately, Ozempic has been linked to this potentially serious side effect. So what exactly is it about Ozempic that causes pancreatitis? The underlying reason for this side effect is not completely understood, but it is thought to be due to the drug increasing the production of pancreatic enzymes. However, it is important to note that the risk of developing pancreatitis while taking Ozempic is still small.

How to avoid pancreatitis when using Ozempic

You should always follow your doctor’s instructions for using Ozempic, which may include monitoring your glucose levels closely and adjusting your dosage as needed. Additionally, you should always report any symptoms of pancreatitis, such as severe abdominal pain or nausea to your doctor right away. By staying vigilant and taking preventive measures, you can help protect your pancreas while still enjoying the benefits of Ozempic.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a serious condition that can cause vision problems. It is one of the severe side effects of using the drug Ozempic. The reason this medication can cause this side effect is that it works to lower blood sugar levels by increasing insulin production. As a result, this can cause changes to the blood vessels in the eye, which can lead to damage to the retina over time. While it’s important to control blood sugar levels to manage diabetes effectively, it’s also crucial to watch for potential side effects and alert your doctor if you notice any vision changes while using Ozempic.

How to avoid retinopathy when using Ozempic

To avoid these side effects, it is important to carefully monitor blood sugar levels and follow a strict dietary regimen that is designed to keep blood sugar levels stable. In addition, regular eye exams and check-ups are essential to detect any signs of retinopathy early on and prevent further damage from occurring. Making healthy lifestyle changes and regular eye check-ups can also go a long way to reducing the chances of developing diabetic retinopathy.

Allergic reaction

Some patients may experience allergic reactions to the drug, causing life-threatening side effects requiring immediate medical attention. This can include rash, itching or hives on the skin, shortness of breath, wheezing or difficulty breathing and swelling of the face, lips and tongue causing trouble swallowing. So why does this happen? Ozempic contains a protein that can trigger an immune response, leading to allergic reactions. It is important to note that a very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare.

How to avoid allergic reactions when using Ozempic

One way to avoid these side effects is to communicate openly and honestly with your doctor about your health history and any allergies you may have. Your doctor may also recommend starting with a lower dose of Ozempic and slowly increasing it over time to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. Remember, managing your diabetes is a marathon, not a sprint, so take the time to discuss any concerns you may have with your healthcare provider.

Increased risk of thyroid tumours

Ozempic has been linked to an increased risk of thyroid tumours or a type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid carcinoma. This side effect can be dangerous because thyroid cancer can spread quickly and can be difficult to treat if not caught early. This may cause a range of symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing or breathing, hoarseness and more. However, it’s important to note that not everyone who takes Ozempic will develop thyroid tumors. Several factors can increase your risk, such as a family history of thyroid cancer or past radiation exposure. It is important to note that the overall risk of developing these side effects is still relatively low.

How to avoid risk of thyroid tumours when using Ozempic

To reduce your risk, it’s important to keep an open dialogue with your doctor and discuss any concerns you may have. They may also recommend routine thyroid screenings to catch any abnormalities early on. Overall, while the increased risk of thyroid tumours is certainly worrisome, it’s important to remember that Ozempic can provide much-needed relief for diabetes symptoms. By staying vigilant and monitoring your health, you can continue to safely use Ozempic as part of your diabetes treatment plan.

Weight loss

Ozempic has been found to cause weight loss in some patients. The reason for this side effect is that the drug works by stimulating the release of a hormone called GLP-1, which regulates appetite and reduces glucose production in the liver. While weight loss can be a positive outcome for diabetics, it can also be dangerous for others who need to maintain their weight for medical conditions.

Ozempic’s weight loss side effect has also led to the development of a new drug called Wegovy, which is specifically designed for weight management. By understanding how Ozempic works, scientists were able to modify the drug to create Wegovy, which has been approved by the NHS and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in adults with obesity or those overweight who have at least one weight-related condition.

Speak to your healthcare professional for more medical advice

It’s essential to remember that Ozempic is an effective medication and can be very helpful in lowering blood glucose levels and reducing the risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attacks. Like all medications however, it carries with it the potential for side effects. Lifestyle choices like healthy eating and regular exercise can be powerful additions in helping patients manage these side effects. Also, simply being aware of what to look out for can help make sure any problems are caught early and addressed if needed.

Don’t forget to contact a healthcare professional or speak to your pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns about your medication or its potential side effects. If you cannot tolerate Ozempic, there are other options such as liraglutide (Victoza). Always inform your pharmacist or healthcare professional of prescription drugs, over-the-counter meds and supplements you take, to avoid drug interactions. They can also provide you with medication guides for each drug you take. Additionally tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

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Disclaimer

Now Patient has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that all material is factually accurate, complete, and current. However, the knowledge and experience of a qualified healthcare professional should always be sought after instead of using the information in this page. Before taking any drug, you should always speak to your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider.

The information provided here about medications is subject to change and is not meant to include all uses, precautions, warnings, directions, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or negative effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a particular medication does not imply that the medication or medication combination is appropriate for all patients or for all possible purposes.

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