GLP-1 receptor agonist medicines, also called incretin mimetics, are a type of incretin-based medicine for type 2 diabetes. This type of medicine is based on the action of hormones called incretins, which help control how the pancreas works. One type of incretin, called GLP-1, causes your pancreas to produce more insulin after you eat and helps keep blood glucose levels in the normal range. These medicines (exanatide, dulaglutide, lixisenatide and liraglutide) copy, or mimic, the action of GLP-1 made by your body. The effects of GLP-1 only last for a few minutes, but GLP-1 receptor agonists medicines can last for hours or days.
GLP-1 receptor agonists come as a liquid, which you inject under the skin on your abdomen, thigh, or upper arm. Depending on which medicine you use, you inject it either once or twice daily, or once weekly. GLP-1 receptor agonists are used alone or along with other diabetes medicines.
They help keep your blood glucose from going too high by:
GLP-1 receptor agonists don’t cause low blood glucose, a condition called hypoglycemia. But you’re at risk for low blood glucose if you also take diabetes pills or insulin that may cause hypoglycemia. Low blood glucose can make you feel hungry, dizzy, nervous, shaky, or confused. You can learn what to eat or drink to bring your blood glucose level back up to normal.
GLP-1 receptor agonists can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, weakness, or dizziness. Some side effects are warning signs of serious conditions. For example, nausea and vomiting with abdominal pain could be pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Ask your doctor which signs to watch for and what to do if those signs happen.
Talk with your doctor about your diabetes medicines. Ask if there are other medicines that can help you, or if you should use more than one medicine. Tell your doctor about any side effects you have from your medicines. Be sure to tell your doctor about your other health conditions and whether you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Then your doctor can make the best choice of medicine for you.
You may know that GLP-1 agonists are used to treat type 2 diabetes, provides cardiovascular benefits, and lowers the risk for heart disease. But do you know how GLP-1 receptor agonists affect organs and tissues? Learn more or refresh your memory by playing this classic game of Operation!