Prior to your appointment to start a GLP-1 (Glucagon-like peptide-1), please read the following information. This will help you have the foundation knowledge required for an effective consultation and to safely commence your new medication.
Why have you been prescribed a GLP-1?
Where patients need more support to reduce their blood glucose levels than is possible just using other medication, a GLP-1 is a type of drug that mimics one of the gut hormones involved in blood glucose control.
When combined with a healthy balanced diet, reduced portion sizes and increased activity levels, a GLP1 can help reduce:
- Blood glucose levels and
- Your weight
- The risk of major cardiovascular events (problems having to do with the heart and blood vessels) such as death, heart attack, or stroke
What does a GLP1 do?
- Helps your body produce more insulin when it is needed
- Reduces the amount of glucose being produced by the liver when it is not needed
- Slows down the speed at which your stomach digests food and empties
- Reduces your appetite.
How is a GLP1 taken?
GLP-1s are injected into the subcutaneous layer of the thigh, abdomen, or upper arm, which is the fat layer just below the dermis and above the muscle. It offers slow, stable and predictable absorption, whatever the fat tissue depth. Stable and predictable absorption of your medication will support optimal blood glucose control. Injections into subcutaneous tissue space are known to be less painful than injections into the dermis or muscle tissue.
Your DSN will tell you what starting dose and when to take your GLP-1
Storing your GLP-1
Before opening store in a refrigerator at 2°C to 8°C, and keep it away from the cooling element. Do not freeze.
After opening, read the manufactures instructions or ask your DSN for how long your medication can be kept out of the fridge. When you are not using the pen, keep the pen cap on to protect it from light.
Are GLP1s insulin?
- No, GLP1 is not insulin.
Can GLP1 cause side effects?
Most people who take a GLP1 long-term do not suffer any side effects, however, the following have been reported. If you suffer any of these, please contact your DSN to discuss.
Nausea On commencing a GLP1, nausea (feeling of sickness) is common for the first week or two but almost invariably settles on its own accord. To overcome any nausea, it is recommended that you eat smaller, more frequent meals, eat slowly, drink plenty of water (stay hydrated) and avoid fatty food.
Inflamed pancreas (pancreatitis). If you have severe pain in your stomach area (abdomen), with or without vomiting, that will not go away. You may feel the pain from your abdomen to your back. Stop using your GLP-1 and call your GP as bloods will need to be done to rule out pancreatitis
Changes in vision. Tell your GP and DSN if you have changes in your eyesight (vision) during treatment with GLP-1.
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Signs and symptoms of low blood sugar may include dizziness or light-headedness, confusion or drowsiness, headache, blurred vision, slurred speech, fast heartbeat, sweating, hunger, shakiness, feeling jittery, weakness, anxiety, irritability, or mood changes.
Serious allergic reactions. Stop using GLP-1 and get medical help right away if you have any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction which may include: swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat, problems breathing or swallowing, severe rash or itching, fainting or feeling dizzy, or very rapid heartbeat.
Acute kidney injury. In people who have kidney problems, diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting may cause a loss of fluids (dehydration). This may cause kidney problems to get worse.
Severe stomach problems. GLP-1 may cause stomach problems, which could be severe.
If you suffer any side effects after commencing your GLP-1, contact the Diabetes Nursing team, who will offer advice
Do I have to stay on GLP1 for life?
GLP1 medication is usually reviewed after six months. If the following is shown the medication can be continued long-term.
- A weight loss of 3% of their starting weight
- An improvement in their HbA1c measurement by at least 11mmol/mol
If there are no benefits the GLP1 will be changed or stopped.