Semaglutide is a medication that can help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar levels and reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also help people who are overweight or obese lose weight by reducing their appetite and increasing their energy expenditure.
Semaglutide is available under different brand names, such as Ozempic, Rybelsus, and Wegovy. Each brand has its own uses, dosages, forms, and costs. In this article, we will explain how semaglutide works, what are its benefits and side effects, and how to use it safely and effectively.
How semaglutide works
Semaglutide belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists. GLP-1 stands for glucagon-like peptide-1, a hormone that is released by the gut after eating. GLP-1 has several effects on the body that help regulate blood sugar levels. It:
Stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin, a hormone that lowers blood sugar levels
Inhibits the release of glucagon, a hormone that raises blood sugar levels
Slows down the emptying of the stomach, which reduces the amount of food intake and delays the absorption of glucose
Reduces appetite and increases satiety, which leads to lower calorie intake and weight loss
Increases energy expenditure, which burns more calories and fat
Semaglutide works by mimicking the action of GLP-1. It binds to and activates the GLP-1 receptor on the cells of the pancreas, liver, stomach, brain, and other tissues. By doing so, it enhances the effects of GLP-1 on blood sugar control and weight management.
Benefits of semaglutide
Semaglutide has been shown to be effective in improving blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. It can lower the average blood sugar level over three months (HbA1c) by 1% to 2%. It can also lower fasting blood sugar levels by 20 to 40 mg/dL.
Semaglutide can also lower the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke in people with type 2 diabetes who also have heart disease. It can reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular causes by 22%, nonfatal heart attack by 26%, and nonfatal stroke by 39%.
Semaglutide can also help people with type 2 diabetes lose weight by reducing their appetite and increasing their energy expenditure. It can cause an average weight loss of 8 to 10 lbs in people taking Ozempic or Rybelsus for diabetes. It can cause an average weight loss of 15% of body weight in people taking Wegovy for obesity.
Weight loss can have several benefits for people with type 2 diabetes, such as:
Improving blood sugar control
Reducing blood pressure
Lowering cholesterol levels
Enhancing quality of life
Side effects of semaglutide
Semaglutide can cause some side effects that some people may find bothersome or difficult to tolerate. The most common side effects are:
These side effects are usually mild and tend to go away over time as the body gets used to the medication. They are more likely to occur with higher doses of semaglutide. That’s why it is recommended to start with a low dose and gradually increase it over several weeks.
To reduce the risk of these side effects, it may help to:
Eat smaller meals
Avoid high-fat foods
Drink plenty of fluids
Stay upright after eating
Take anti-nausea medications if needed
However, some rare but serious side effects may also occur with semaglutide. These include:
Pancreatitis: inflammation of the pancreas that can cause severe abdominal pain that may radiate to the back, nausea, vomiting, fever, and elevated blood enzymes. This can be a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Gallbladder problems: such as gallstones or inflammation that can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), and elevated liver enzymes. This may require surgery or other treatments.
Low blood sugar: especially if taking other diabetes medications that lower blood sugar levels such as insulin or sulfonylureas. This can cause symptoms such as sweating, shakiness, hunger, confusion, drowsiness, weakness, headache, or blurred vision. This can be a dangerous condition that requires immediate treatment with glucose tablets, juice, candy, or other sources of sugar.
Allergic reactions: such as rash, itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing. This can be a severe condition that requires emergency medical care.
Thyroid tumors: benign or malignant growths in the thyroid gland that can cause symptoms such as hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, or a lump in the neck. This can be a rare but serious condition that requires further evaluation and treatment.
If you experience any of these side effects or any other unusual or severe symptoms while taking semaglutide, you should contact your doctor right away. How to use semaglutide safely and effectively Semaglutide is a prescription-only medication that should be used under the guidance of your doctor. Your doctor will determine the best brand, dose, and form of semaglutide for you based on your medical condition, response to treatment, and other factors.
Semaglutide is available in three different brands and forms:
Ozempic: a once-weekly injection that comes in a pre-filled pen device. The recommended dose for diabetes is 0.5 mg or 1 mg once weekly. You should start with a lower dose of 0.25 mg once weekly and increase it after four weeks to 0.5 mg once weekly. Your doctor may increase your dose to 1 mg once weekly if needed. You can inject it under your skin in your abdomen, thigh, or upper arm. You can use it at any time of the day, with or without food. You should use it on the same day each week.
Rybelsus: an oral tablet that you take by mouth once daily. The recommended dose for diabetes is 7 mg or 14 mg once daily. You should start with a lower dose of 3 mg once daily for 30 days and then increase it to 7 mg once daily. Your doctor may increase your dose to 14 mg once daily if needed. You should take it in the morning on an empty stomach with no more than 4 ounces of plain water. You should wait at least 30 minutes before eating, drinking, or taking other medications.
Wegovy: a once-weekly injection that comes in a pre-filled pen device. The recommended dose for obesity is 2.4 mg once weekly. You should start with a lower dose of 0.25 mg once weekly and gradually increase it over 16 weeks until you reach the target dose. You can inject it under your skin in your abdomen, thigh, or upper arm. You can use it at any time of the day, with or without food. You should use it on the same day each week.
Before using semaglutide, you should read the medication guide and instructions for use provided by your pharmacist or doctor. You should also learn how to prepare and administer the injection if you are using Ozempic or Wegovy. You should store semaglutide according to the package directions and discard any unused or expired medication safely.
You should use semaglutide regularly to get the most benefit from it. Remember to use it every 7 days if you are using Ozempic or Wegovy and every day if you are using Rybelsus. It may help to mark your calendar with a reminder. You should also follow your doctor’s advice on diet modification and exercise while taking semaglutide. These lifestyle changes can enhance the effects of semaglutide on blood sugar control and weight loss.
You should monitor your blood sugar levels regularly while taking semaglutide and report any abnormal results to your doctor. You should also have regular check-ups with your doctor to evaluate your progress and adjust your treatment plan if needed.
Semaglutide can help you manage your type 2 diabetes and/or lose weight with confidence and ease.