Ozempic: Side Effects and How to Manage Them

Apr 18, 2024 | Weight Loss

Ozempic (semaglutide) is a diabetes medication injected once weekly under the skin. Ozempic belongs to a class of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists.

Like other medications, Ozempic has potential side effects. The common side effects usually disappear with time.

Most common side effects may occur in the first few weeks of treatment or after a dose increase. They may include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation.

Discover Ozempic side effects, how to manage them, and other essential safety information.


What Is Ozempic?

Ozempic is an FDA-approved medication for the management of type 2 diabetes in adults. Ozempic has been shown to reduce hemoglobin A1C, a measure of blood glucose over time, and helps improve blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. It also reduces the risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and strokes, in people with type 2 diabetes and known heart disease.

Despite not being classified as a weight loss medication, studies suggest that users of Ozempic may experience significant weight loss while using the drug. The FDA has approved semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic, at higher doses for treating obesity and other weight-related medical conditions under the brand name Wegovy.

Because of shortages in Wegovy coupled with Ozempic’s weight loss effects, doctors are also prescribing Ozempic off-label to people with obesity and overweight and without type 2 diabetes.

Ozempic and Wegovy (semaglutide) are injected into the arm, thigh, or stomach once a week.

Semaglutide is essential for those with type 2 diabetes because it controls insulin and decreases blood sugar levels. The medication works by mimicking the action of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a hormone naturally produced in the intestines that limits appetite by signaling the body when we are full and causing the stomach to empty more slowly. This may promote weight loss.

People on Ozempic or Wegovy claim after using medications, their “food noise,” or intrusive thoughts about food, stop. Foods that used to excite them no longer do so while on medicine.


Common Side Effects of Ozempic

Like any medication, Ozempic may cause side effects in some individuals. If any of these side effects last longer, bother you, or become severe, discussing them with your healthcare provider is essential. They can guide you in managing side effects and may adjust your dosage or recommend other interventions. Here are common side effects of Ozempic and general tips for managing them:


1. Abdominal Pain

When using Ozempic, some people get mild to moderate stomach pain, discomfort, or swelling. Several Ozempic side effects, such as cramping, constipation, bloating, or even diarrhea, may cause stomach pain. Stomach pain may go away on its own in a short time.

What to do:

Drinking plenty of water and eating smaller, frequent meals can ease discomfort. If the pain persists or intensifies, seeking advice from a healthcare provider for further evaluation and management is advisable.


2. Constipation

Constipation is a side effect of Ozempic that affects up to 5% of people. While it can persist longer, constipation is less common than other gastrointestinal side effects. In one study, individuals using a high dose of semaglutide for weight loss only had a few days of nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, while others experienced constipation for almost a month.

What to do:

Incorporate fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet to relieve constipation caused by Ozempic. Ensure adequate hydration by drinking plenty of water and maintaining regular physical activity. If dietary adjustments alone don’t relieve constipation, consult your healthcare provider for additional recommendations.


3. Diarrhea

Diarrhea affects between 8% to 9% of people taking Ozempic for type 2 diabetes and 31% of people taking the higher dose of 2.4 mg of semaglutide for weight loss. Diarrhea is common when you increase the dosage of Ozempic and usually goes away as your body gets used to the medication.

What to do:

If you experience diarrhea while taking Ozempic, prioritize hydration by drinking plenty of fluids, such as water or electrolyte solutions. Stick to easy-to-digest foods like bananas, rice, and toast to help ease symptoms. If diarrhea becomes persistent or severe, discuss it with your doctor for further evaluation and guidance.


4. Nausea

Nausea is a common side effect of Ozempic, especially during the initial stages of treatment or after your doctor increases your dose. This side effect may go away within a few days or weeks. In a clinical trial, nausea was the most common side effect reported by people receiving Ozempic. For many people, it was mild and temporary.

What to do:

If you experience nausea while on Ozempic, taking it with food or at bedtime may relieve nausea. Eating smaller, more frequent meals rather than large ones can also help manage nausea symptoms.

If nausea persists or worsens, consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice. Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat nausea or limit foods that may cause it.


5. Vomiting

Vomiting is less common than nausea, but 5% to 9% of people on Ozempic for type 2 diabetes can experience it, depending on the dosage.

Like nausea, vomiting is more likely to occur when starting to take Ozempic or when you increase the dosage. Vomiting is also more frequent when on higher dosages of semaglutide for weight loss, and it may cause dehydration.

What to do:

If you experience vomiting after taking Ozempic, focus on staying hydrated by sipping water or clear fluids. Avoid solid foods until vomiting subsides to prevent further irritation of the stomach. If vomiting persists or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, such as dehydration or severe abdominal pain, call your doctor. They may recommend over-the-counter medications to decrease the symptoms.


6. Acid Reflux, Burping, and Gas

Burping, gas, and acid reflux are caused by tiny amounts of air accumulation in the digestive tract. The build-up of air in your body during digestion is a normal process.

Our bodies expel air by burping or gas passing. Ozempic may result in a minor amount of extra gas build-up since it slows down the rate at which your stomach breaks down meals.

What to do:

These are usually minor side effects that go away as your body adjusts to the medication. If bothersome, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications such as antacids and anti-flatulants to help treat the symptoms.


7. Allergic Reactions

Like most medications, Ozempic may cause allergic reactions in some people. While rare, Ozempic may cause serious allergic reactions, including skin rash, hives, itching, flushing, and swelling beneath the skin, usually in the hands, feet, or lips, and swelling of the throat, mouth, or tongue that may hinder breathing.

What to do:

Call your doctor right away if you notice any mild allergic reaction signs. Your doctor may offer suggestions for relieving your symptoms or advise you on whether or not to continue with Ozempic. If your symptoms are severe and you believe you are experiencing a medical emergency, contact 911 or your local emergency number right away.


Serious Side Effects of Ozempic?

Ozempic can cause serious side effects, but they’re uncommon. Before beginning treatment, talk with your doctor about the possibility of developing severe side effects from this medication. If you experience any, consult your doctor immediately.


1. Acute Gallbladder Disease

Gallbladder disease, particularly gallstones, is a rare but potentially serious side effect of taking Ozempic or other GLP-1 receptor agonists such as Wegovy. Less than 3% of Ozempic users experience gallbladder issues. Symptoms of gallbladder disease include sharp, persistent abdominal pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or sweating.

While more severe issues may require surgery to remove the gallbladder, gallstones can occasionally be asymptomatic and not require medical attention. Exercise, a low-fat diet, and weight loss can help prevent gallstones. Tell your healthcare professional about any history of gallbladder problems before taking Ozempic.


2. Acute Kidney Injury

Ozempic has an increased risk of developing or worsening kidney disease, including kidney failure in some people. Dehydration caused by other side effects of Ozempic, like diarrhea or vomiting, can lead to kidney problems.

Tell your doctor of any kidney issues you may have had before beginning Ozempic. Your doctor may keep a careful eye on the condition of your kidneys throughout your Ozempic treatment. They may also stop your treatment if you develop new or worsened kidney issues.


3. Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is the term used to describe damage to vision that can occur as a complication of type 2 diabetes. In clinical trials, those on Ozempic had an increased risk of developing issues related to diabetic retinopathy, mainly if they had a history of the condition.

It is unknown to researchers why taking Ozempic can make diabetic retinopathy temporarily worse while it improves blood glucose levels. Diabetes retinopathy symptoms include blurred vision, floaters (small dark spots or lines that float across your vision), dark or empty areas in your vision, difficulty seeing colors, and vision loss (in severe cases).

Before starting Ozempic, tell your doctor if you have a history of diabetic retinopathy. If you have any changes in your vision while taking Ozempic, call your doctor immediately.


4. Hypoglycemia

Ozempic may cause low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. This side effect is more likely to develop if you take Ozempic with insulin or other diabetes medications. Low blood sugar can also result from lifestyle modifications, such as abruptly changing your diet or fasting.

A very low blood sugar level may cause symptoms and other health issues such as seizures, impaired vision, shakiness, sweating, confusion, and dizziness.

Talk to your doctor before starting Ozempic and tell them if you are taking other diabetes medications, such as insulin or sulfonylureas. They may adjust your dosages to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia. They may also create a personalized diabetes management plan.

Notify your doctor if you change your physical activity and diet. These factors can also lower your blood sugar levels. Monitor your levels before, during, and after exercise. If your blood sugar is low before exercising, eat a small snack to raise it.

Eating regular meals and snacks throughout the day can help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent drops. Choose complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to provide sustained energy. You can also try fast-acting sources of glucose, such as glucose tablets, hard candy, or fruit juice.


5. Increased Risk of Thyroid Tumors

Ozempic has a boxed warning about thyroid cancer. This is the most severe warning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued.

Ozempic was shown to increase the risk of thyroid cancers in animals. However, results from studies on animals are not always applicable to humans. Ozempic may or may not cause thyroid cancers in humans.

Don’t use Ozempic if you or a member of your immediate family has or has had medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2.

Contact your doctor if you notice any symptoms of a thyroid tumor, including a lump in your neck, hoarseness, or trouble swallowing.


6. Pancreatitis

While rare, Ozempic can increase the risk of pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas. Symptoms may include severe abdominal pain that may radiate to the back, nausea, and vomiting.

If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. Your healthcare provider will treat the pain and may advise you to stop using Ozempic and switch to a different diabetes prescription or weight loss medication.


How Long Do Side Effects of Ozempic Last?

Ozempic’s common side effects go away after a few days or weeks. However, if they persist for several months or cause discomfort, call your healthcare practitioner.

After stopping Ozempic, it can take a few weeks for Ozempic to clear from your system–especially at the maximum dosage of 2 mg–and side effects might persist.

Although rare, Ozempic may cause certain side effects that might not go away. However, they’re manageable. They include diabetic retinopathy and thyroid cancer.

Consult your doctor or pharmacist about Ozempic’s possible side effects and their duration before starting treatment.


FAQs About the Side Effects of Ozempic


What are “Ozempic face” and “Ozempic neck,” and how are they treated?

“Ozempic face” and “Ozempic neck” are terms used on social media to refer to changes in facial and neck skin that may occur while on Ozempic.

Clinical trials did not report Ozempic’s side effects on the facial and neck skin. Ozempic, however, may cause weight loss. Rapid weight loss may cause changes to the skin on the face, the neck, and other body parts. This may be in the form of sagging, emergence of lines, and wrinkles.

If you have uncomfortable skin changes while undergoing treatment, your doctor may advise you to reduce your Ozempic dosage. They can also advise you to try a different diabetes medication. Options may also include certain cosmetic procedures, including dermal fillers or Morpheus8.


What foods should you avoid while using Ozempic?

There are no particular foods to avoid when receiving Ozempic treatment. The medication can also be injected with or without food. However, you should follow your doctor’s dietary instructions while taking Ozempic.

Your doctor may recommend a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to help with a customized dietary plan.

You should also try reducing your consumption of carbonated drinks, alcoholic beverages, high-fat meals, and spicy foods to help reduce Ozempic’s nauseous side effects.


Does Ozempic cause hair loss?

In clinical trials, hair loss is not listed as a known side effect of Ozempic (semaglutide). However, people with diabetes and persistently high blood sugar levels may have hair loss and thinning.


How NP2GO Can Help Relieve Ozempic Side Effects

NP2GO is a comprehensive weight loss clinic that provides personalized care and effective treatments for people using weight loss and diabetes medications like semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) and tirzepatide (Mounjaro, Zepbound). We understand while these medications are beneficial for weight loss, they may come with side effects that can affect your quality of life.

Our healthcare professionals offer expert guidance on managing Ozempic’s side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, or constipation. We provide personalized advice on adjusting your medication or incorporating dietary changes to ease side effects.

If Ozempic is not working for you or you experience significant side effects, we may offer alternative medications like Mounjaro (tirzepatide).

Mounjaro is a dual glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, providing another option for weight loss and diabetes management.

We also offer Morpheus8 treatment to people who experience “Ozempic face” or “Ozempic neck” due to rapid weight loss, which can result in loose or sagging skin.

Morpheus8 is a cutting-edge, minimally invasive procedure that combines microneedling with radiofrequency technology to tighten and rejuvenate the skin.

If you’re experiencing side effects from Ozempic or if it’s not working for you, contact NP2GO today. Our team is here to help you manage Ozempic side effects, manage your diabetes, and achieve your weight loss goals safely and effectively. Schedule an appointment with us to take the next step on your journey to better health and well-being.