Best Ways to Manage Semaglutide Side Effects

Published

May 28, 2024

How to avoid or mitigate Semaglutide side effects.

Woman taking her blood pressure
Woman taking her blood pressure
Woman taking her blood pressure

Semaglutide is a breakthrough medication for blood sugar control and weight management. However, like many other effective treatments, this medication is not completely risk-free — despite its considerable health benefits. The good thing, though, is that most Semaglutide side effects are either preventable or manageable.

Woman reading drug information from Semaglutide injection vial

This article discusses Semaglutide's potential side effects, the reasons why adverse reactions arise, and the ways to prevent or lessen their impact. If you’re already enrolled in a Henry Meds treatment program, you can learn more about how the healthcare providers in our network can help you get the most out of your Semaglutide treatment experience.

What Is Semaglutide?

Semaglutide is classified as an incretin mimetic, belonging to a group of drugs that imitate the actions of incretin hormones in the human gut. This prescription medicine specifically serves as a synthetic analog of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that stimulates insulin release and suppresses glucagon secretion in the pancreas when blood sugar levels are high. GLP-1’s insulin and glucagon regulation curbs blood glucose spikes.¹

Additionally, Semaglutide slows down food movement along the gut and acts on brain regions controlling the appetite. This medication is typically injected under the skin once weekly.¹ Semaglutide is also available in the pill form, which may be taken once daily.²

Why Is This Medication Prescribed?

Semaglutide injection addresses two concerns simultaneously. The brand-name medication was initially approved for managing blood sugar levels among patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.³

However, studies show that this GLP-1 agonist can also effectively reduce weight if taken while making lifestyle changes, such as exercise and diet. Thus, Semaglutide can also help individuals with weight loss resistance manage their weight.⁴

Research on brand-name Semaglutide has demonstrated its superior efficacy over the traditional antidiabetic therapies sitagliptin and insulin glargine and the GLP-1 medications exenatide and Liraglutide.⁵ Semaglutide’s ability to control blood glucose levels and body weight surpasses that of older treatments.

What Are the Side Effects of Semaglutide?

Semaglutide has proven cardiovascular benefits.⁵ However, like many other beneficial medications, this GLP-1 agonist is not completely free of risk. The most common Semaglutide adverse effects are mild, tolerable, and temporary. Potentially serious ones are rare and preventable. We explain how they arise and how to manage them below.

Common Semaglutide Side Effects

Research on brand-name Semaglutide shows that its most frequent side effects involve the digestive system. These include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms usually occur because of Semaglutide’s effects on the brain and digestive system — it reduces your appetite and slows down food movement in the gut.⁶

Illustration showing sites of Semaglutide’s potential side effects

Measures that can help include the following:⁶

  • Eat meals slowly so your body can adjust to the medication.

  • Avoid fatty foods and choose easy-to-digest options.

  • Stop eating when you feel full.

  • Talk to your doctor about medications that can relieve nausea and vomiting.

Again, these digestive side effects are usually temporary and improve after a few weeks of Semaglutide intake.⁶ Seek medical assistance immediately if symptoms persist or become unbearable.

Rare, Preventable Side Effects of Semaglutide

Studies on brand-name Semaglutide report rare occurrences of serious adverse effects related to its intake. These adverse events include the following:⁶

Hypoglycemia, or blood sugar dropping below normal levels, may occur when Semaglutide is combined with other diabetes medications. Your healthcare provider in the Henry Meds network may advise you to adjust your medication doses and monitor your blood sugar closely.

Acute gallbladder disease may arise due to some impact of the medication, but the precise mechanism is still unclear. Discuss your risk with your health provider if you have a history of gallbladder issues so you can explore alternatives.

Acute kidney injury may arise from severe dehydration from neglected vomiting and diarrhea. Avoiding this condition requires staying hydrated. Your provider may also recommend stopping the treatment if the digestive symptoms become intolerable.

Blurred vision has been reported in adults with Type 2 Diabetes who participated in the brand-name Semaglutide trials. However, individuals with longstanding Type 2 Diabetes may already have the beginnings of a condition known as diabetic retinopathy. If you have Type 2 Diabetes, your provider may perform an eye exam before prescribing Semaglutide to make sure you can start it safely. Regular eye exams are also crucial during treatment.

Mildly increased heart rate has been documented in clinical trials, attributed to Semaglutide’s ability to stimulate the heart’s natural pacemaker (sinoatrial node). People with good cardiac function can tolerate this side effect, and Semaglutide’s benefits outweigh the risks for these individuals. Meanwhile, people with pre-existing heart disease may not be able to tolerate the risk.

Healthcare provider using blood pressure apparatus and interpreting ECG strip

Acute pancreatitis has been reported. However, this occurrence is attributed to pre-existing risk factors in study participants who took brand-name Semaglutide. Long-standing diabetes and weight loss resistance generally predispose to pancreatitis.

Allergies and injection-site reactions, such as bruising, discoloration, severe rash, and injection-site pain, have also been reported. Talk to your doctor about preventive measures if you have allergic tendencies or sensitive skin.

Importantly, serious side effects were mainly observed in people with pre-existing medical conditions. If you’re consulting with a clinician on our platform, they can identify these potential risks and recommend a different regimen if they consider Semaglutide unsafe for you.

Potential Long-Term Side Effects of Semaglutide

While Semaglutide has shown great promise, potential long-term side effects are still being studied. Concerns have been particularly raised about medullary thyroid and pancreatic cancers. These adverse events were reported in brand-name Semaglutide clinical trial participants with pre-existing risks. Although observed in clinical research, real-world data currently do not provide strong evidence confirming that these are true risks.⁶

In any case, studies show that Semaglutide’s benefits outweigh these risks in people with Type 2 Diabetes and weight loss resistance.⁶ Talk to your provider on the Henry Meds platform if you’re concerned about a pre-existing condition that may require considering Semaglutide alternatives.

Potential Drug Interactions with Semaglutide

Possible interactions may arise when Semaglutide is taken alongside other oral medicines, foods, beverages, or supplements.⁷ Here's why they occur:

  • Injectable Semaglutide slows down your digestion and absorption of other medications, potentially lowering their effectiveness.

  • Semaglutide already helps control blood sugar. Combining it with other antidiabetic medications like insulin can lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels.⁶

  • Certain oral medications, such as thyroxine (oral thyroid hormone replacement) and bisphosphonates (anti-osteoporosis pills), need specific timing for adequate absorption. Combining them with oral Semaglutide can enhance their absorption and blood levels.⁸

If you’re consulting with a medical professional on the Henry Meds platform, you should tell them about all the medications and supplements you’re taking. Discuss any concerns you have about potential Semaglutide interactions.

Semaglutide vial surrounded by various medications

Possible Consequences of Semaglutide Overdose

Rare Semaglutide overdosing occurrences have been reported. Since 2019, America's Poison Centers have received close to 3,000 calls related to Semaglutide dosing errors and developing symptoms thereafter.⁹ These reports highlight the importance of using this prescription medication correctly.

While the evidence is limited, two documented cases illustrate the potential consequences of Semaglutide overdose. Both individuals experienced nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain after accidentally taking ten times their prescribed dose.¹⁰ These symptoms are directly linked to the drug's mechanism of action.

Semaglutide works by lowering blood sugar levels and altering digestive function. Overdosing amplifies these effects, leading to hypoglycemia and intense gastrointestinal discomfort.⁷ However, these are just two examples, and overdosing’s specific effects can vary depending on patient factors and the medication amount taken. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you or someone you know may have overdosed on Semaglutide.

Contraindications

Semaglutide is not for everyone. While it is beneficial, certain situations call for caution. The following individuals should consider alternatives:¹¹

  • People with a history of an allergic reaction to Semaglutide-like medications

  • Patients with pre-existing conditions, notably pancreatic or kidney injury, gallbladder disease, heart conditions, and visual impairment

  • Those with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer

Women who are pregnant or planning to conceive may also be advised to avoid Semaglutide, as evidence regarding its efficacy and safety in pregnancy is limited.¹¹ Essentially, anyone with conditions that can make Semaglutide treatment risky, as identified by clinical trials, should discuss alternatives with their doctor.

What Should You Know About the Proper Storage and Disposal of Semaglutide Injection Paraphernalia?

Proper Semaglutide injection paraphernalia storage and disposal keep you and others safe. Here are some helpful measures:⁷

Regarding proper storage:

  • Keep your supplies refrigerated, but avoid freezing the Semaglutide product.

  • Maintain needle safety. Dispose of used syringes in a designated sharps container — never in the trash.

  • Avoid leaving Semaglutide exposed to direct sunlight.

Regarding proper disposal:

  • Carefully disassemble the device according to the manufacturer's instructions after each injection.

  • Follow local guidelines. Check with your local waste management or pharmacy for specific sharps disposal regulations.

Syringe being disposed in a medical hazard bin

Keep in mind that this information is for general guidance only. Always follow the specific instructions provided with your Semaglutide supplies. Consult your clinician if you have any questions.

What Special Precautions Should You Follow When Taking Semaglutide?

Before starting Semaglutide treatment, it’s best to share crucial information with your doctor to maximize your regimen’s benefits. The following are the most important to disclose:¹¹

  • Pre-existing conditions or a family history of illnesses that can make Semaglutide risky for you

  • Allergies to medications similar to Semaglutide

  • Pregnancy, lactation, or plans to conceive

Other precautions include the following:¹¹

  • Before injecting Semaglutide, ensure the solution is clear and colorless. If it is frozen or cloudy, discard it and use a new one.

  • Semaglutide injections are for individual use only. Never share your syringes with anyone else to avoid infections.

Consult your healthcare provider in the Henry Meds network to discuss your specific needs before starting any weight management regimen.

How Can Henry Meds Help You Complete Your Semaglutide Regimen Safely?

By connecting you with a large network of US-licensed healthcare providers, pharmacists, and compounding pharmacies, Henry Meds can make your health journey easier.

Here's how it works:

  • Choose a treatment program 

  • Select your location, choose an appointment time, then create your account and subscribe.

  • Share your basic information and medical history.

  • Receive a confirmation of your telehealth appointment date and time via email. Consult with a US-licensed medical practitioner on the Henry Meds platform from the comfort of your home.

  • Get your prescription. If medically approved, you can receive your Compounded Semaglutide right at your doorstep.

Besides these convenient benefits, Henry Meds has transparent pricing. We have no hidden costs, just a flat $297 monthly fee. Our subscriptions don’t require insurance.

Vigilance and Partnership: Keys to Staying on Top of Semaglutide Side Effects 

Semaglutide is highly beneficial for people requiring blood sugar and weight management. However, like other effective treatments, this GLP-1 agonist has potential downsides.

Digestive problems are common but usually fade over time. Serious side effects exist but were rarely reported in studies. Additionally, they may be mitigated with careful screening, meticulous monitoring, and dose adjustments. Working closely with your health provider can minimize Semaglutide’s risks and optimize its benefits.

Healthcare provider on laptop screen on a video call with patient

Finally, if you decide to start a weight management program, let Henry Meds help. The US-licensed providers on our platform can help you figure out if Semaglutide is suitable for you. Our platform makes Compounded Semaglutide available as part of our weight management program for only $297 a month. Get the healthcare you deserve affordably by subscribing to Henry Meds today.

FAQs

How Long Should You Stay on Semaglutide Injection for Weight Loss?

Weight management experts recommend aiming for 5-10% weight loss within 3-6 months on the same treatment, including Semaglutide regimens, before considering other options. However, everyone responds to Semaglutide differently, and the length of your treatment depends on your individual progress and weight loss goals.¹² Ask your Henry Meds provider for a personalized plan to reach your best results safely.

Pharmacist working at a drugstore

Does Semaglutide Injection Affect Metabolism?

Studies on brand-name Semaglutide injection show that the medication speeds up body metabolism, producing the following heart-protective improvements:¹³

  • Trimmed waist

  • Lower body mass index

  • Healthy blood pressure levels

  • Lower HbA1c and fasting plasma glucose, indicating better blood sugar control

  • Reduced oxidative stress from inflammation

  • Improved cholesterol levels and fasting lipid profile

To gain all these benefits, regular exercise and a healthy diet must go hand-in-hand with Semaglutide treatment.

What Should You Do If You Missed a Dose of Semaglutide Injection?

If you miss a dose and the next scheduled dose is more than a couple of days away, you may inject the medication as soon as possible. If the next scheduled dose is less than two days away, skip the missed dose and resume your regular schedule.⁷

Avoid taking double doses to make up for missed ones or injecting if it has been more than two weeks since your last dose.⁷ Consult your provider in the Henry Meds network if you have any questions or concerns about missed doses.

Does Semaglutide Affect Your Face?

Drastic weight loss after brand-name Semaglutide intake may lead to what is called “Ozempic® face,” characterized by facial sagging and wrinkling, making the individual look older. Minimally invasive and plastic surgery procedures are available should this cosmetic challenge arise.¹⁴ Discuss any concerns you may have regarding potential changes to your looks with a healthcare professional. 

Disclaimers:

To help you trust the information we provide, every article written by Henry relies on peer-reviewed studies and medically-reviewed facts. We ensure that data, ideas, and figures cited are reliable, current, and accurate. Our team of medical reviewers aims to help you cut through the noise with clear and authoritative primary and secondary sources.

Nothing in this article is intended to be prescriptive or medical advice. Talk to your doctor before starting a new diet and exercise plan. The information presented is about our medically supervised weight management programs and is not an advertisement for a specific drug.

Please note: Henry Meds does not offer Rybelsus®, Ozempic®, or Wegovy®, which are only available from the Novo Nordisk company. Compounded Semaglutide is a patient-specific medication created in a state Board of Pharmacy or FDA-licensed compounding facility per a prescription from a licensed healthcare professional. Compounded drugs are required to exclusively use ingredients from FDA-licensed facilities, and test sterile compounds for potency, sterility, and purity. While compounded drugs are legal, they do not undergo pre-market approval from the FDA as they are not made in large batches for the public. Compounds are made based on specific orders from a medical professional. Because of that, the dose, route of administration, safety, and efficacy may differ from commercially available, brand-name drugs. Henry Meds exclusively works with licensed sterile compounding pharmacies in the United States.

Sources

  1. Lau, D. C. W., et al. (March 2022). Pharmacological profile of once-weekly injectable semaglutide for chronic weight management. Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology. 15(3), 251-267. https://doi.org/10.1080/17512433.2022.2070473

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (April 2021). Highlights of Prescribing Information: Rybelsus. Retrieved February 7, 2024, from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2021/213051s006lbl.pdf

  3. Nauck, M. A., et al. (April 2021). GLP-1 receptor agonists in the treatment of type 2 diabetes - state-of-the-art. Molecular Metabolism. 46. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8085572

  4. Bergmann, N. C., et al. (October 2022). Semaglutide for the treatment of overweight and obesity: A review. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. 25(1), 18-35. https://dom-pubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/dom.14863

  5. Singh, G., et al. (2021, October 27). Wegovy (semaglutide): a new weight loss drug for chronic weight management. Journal of Investigative Medicine. 70(1), 5-13. http://doi.org/10.1136/jim-2021-001952

  6. Smits, M. M. and Van Raalte, D. H. (2021, July 7). Safety of Semaglutide. Frontiers in Endocrinology. 12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8294388/pdf/fendo-12-645563.pdf

  7. Novo Nordisk. (2021, November 23). Product monograph including patient medication information: Wegovy. Retrieved February 7, 2024, from https://www.novonordisk.ca/content/dam/nncorp/ca/en/products/Wegovy-product-monograph.pdf

  8. Hughes, S. and Neumiller, J. J. (January 2020). Oral Semaglutide. Clinical Diabetes. 38(1), 109-111. https://doi.org/10.2337%2Fcd19-0079

  9. Goodman, B. (2023, December 18). Poison centers see nearly 1,500% increase in calls related to injected weight-loss drugs as people accidentally overdose. U.S. Cable News Network Health. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/12/13/health/semaglutide-overdoses-wellness/index.html

  10. Lambson, J. E.,  et al. (September 2023). Administration errors of compounded semaglutide reported to a poison control center - Case series. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association. 63(5), 1643-1645. https://www.japha.org/article/S1544-3191(23)00231-5/pdf

  11. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (December 2017). Highlights of Prescribing Information: Ozempic. Retrieved February 7, 2024, from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/209637lbl.pdf

  12. Tucker, S., et al. (2021, July 23). The Most Undertreated Chronic Disease: Addressing Obesity in Primary Care Settings. Current Obesity Reports. 10(3), 396-408. https://doi.org/10.1007%2Fs13679-021-00444-y

  13. Wilding, J. P. H., et al. (2021, March 18). Once-Weekly Semaglutide in Adults with Overweight or Obesity. The New England Journal of Medicine. 384(11). https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2032183

  14. O’Neill, E. S., et.al. (January 2024). Injectable Weight Loss Medications in Plastic Surgery: What We Know, Perioperative Considerations, and Recommendations for the Future. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery-Global Open. 12(1), e5516. https://journals.lww.com/prsgo/fulltext/2024/01000/injectable_weight_loss_medications_in_plastic.47.aspx

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