Ozempic is a newer medication used to treat type 2 diabetes that is being advertised more often.
New medications can be exciting because they’re more effective and more convenient than older types of drugs.
However, even newer medications come with potential side effects, both common and rare.
You should be aware of all of the potential side effects of Ozempic (semaglutide) if you’re considering taking it.
What is Ozempic and GLP-1 receptor?
GLP-1 receptors in your pancreas help increase insulin secretion while reducing glucagon secretion, a hormone that raises blood sugar levels. GLP-1 receptor agonists activate these receptors to help control blood sugar levels.
Ozempic is a non-insulin injectable medication for type 2 diabetes. The typical dose of Ozempic is 0.25 milligrams once weekly for four weeks, then 0.5 milligrams weekly for at least four weeks. If blood sugar targets aren’t being met with 0.5 milligrams weekly, the dose can gradually be increased to a maximum of 2 milligrams weekly.
What is Ozempic used for?
Ozempic (semaglutide) is FDA-approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Ozempic isn’t for people with type 1 diabetes, nor is it safe to use during pregnancy.
While Ozempic can cause weight loss, it isn’t approved by the FDA to be used as a weight-loss medication. However, here it is worth discussing ozempic vs wegovy. Wegovy is a different brand name for the same drug, and it was approved for weight management in 2021. Therefore, Wegovy could be an option for those without type 2 diabetes who want to lose weight.
Ozempic is typically prescribed for people with type 2 diabetes who aren’t achieving blood sugar targets. Your healthcare provider might recommend Ozempic if you’re not thriving on other diabetes medications like metformin.
One of the benefits of Ozempic is that it’s a once-weekly injection, which is a major plus for those who don’t want to take daily insulin injections, who have erratic schedules or struggle with remembering to take daily medications.
Common Ozempic (Semaglutide) side effects
Like all medications, there are possible side effects from taking Ozempic (semaglutide). Many of the side effects are considered minor, which means that they can be uncomfortable but aren’t likely to do any damage.
Some of the most common Ozempic side effects include:
This can include an upset stomach (nausea and vomiting), stomach pain, loss of appetite, heartburn, burping, gas, and bloating
Diarrhea or constipation
Diarrhea or constipation can indeed be a side effect of certain medications, including Ozempic (semaglutide). While not everyone will experience this side effect, some individuals may experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea when they start taking Ozempic.
Headaches can be a potential side effect of various medications, including GLP-1 receptor agonists like Ozempic.
Dizziness can occur when starting new medications, and it’s possible that Ozempic may contribute to this side effect in some individuals.
Some users may also experience increased feelings of tiredness or lack of energy while taking this medication.
Injection site pain
Injection site pain is a possible side effect that can occur with Ozempic (semaglutide) and other injectable medications. Ozempic is administered as an injection, typically in the abdomen, thigh, or upper arm. Injection site pain can manifest as discomfort, soreness, or tenderness at the site where the medication was injected.
Low blood sugar
This is another common side effect experienced, especially if you’re taking another diabetes medication like insulin or sulfonylureas).
You likely don’t need medical attention for minor side effects. When in doubt, contact your healthcare provider’s office if you’re experiencing unpleasant side effects and see how they advise you.
Another side effect you may have heard about is ‘Ozempic face,’ which is characterized by having a saggy, gaunt, or hollow-looking face after weight loss.
Severe Ozempic side effects/complications
While it’s rare, there are possible serious side effects from taking Ozempic. These rare side effects can be life-threatening, so you should seek medical attention right away for any of them.
Ozempic has caused thyroid cancer in rodents. There is a chance that Ozempic may cause thyroid cancer, but it isn’t clear if taking Ozempic increases your thyroid cancer risk (4).
You shouldn’t take Ozempic if you have a history of thyroid cancer or a thyroid tumor. Additionally, you should also avoid taking Ozempic if anyone in your family has a history of medullary thyroid carcinoma, a type of thyroid cancer.
You should avoid taking Ozempic if you have Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN2). MEN2 is a rare disorder that causes tumors to form on glands that make hormones, such as the thyroid.
If you experience any of these symptoms while taking Ozempic, you should alert your healthcare provider immediately:
- A lump in the neck, sometimes growing quickly
- Swelling in the neck
- Pain in the front of the neck, sometimes going up to the ears
- Hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away
- Trouble swallowing
- Trouble breathing
- A constant cough that is not due to a cold
According to clinical trials, Ozempic may cause pancreatitis, which is a painful inflammation of your pancreas (5). You shouldn’t take Ozempic if you have a history of pancreatitis, which can damage your pancreas if you keep getting pancreatitis.
If you experience any of these symptoms of pancreatitis while taking Ozempic, you should let your healthcare provider know right away:
- Upper abdominal pain
- Abdominal pain that radiates to your back
- Tenderness when touching your abdomen
- Rapid pulse
Chronic (long-term) pancreatitis signs and symptoms include:
- Upper abdominal pain
- Abdominal pain that feels worse after eating
- Losing weight without trying
- Oily, smelly stools (steatorrhea) due to a lack of pancreatic enzymes that help break down fats
You might be allergic to Ozempic (semaglutide) and not know it before you start taking it. If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction when taking Ozempic, stop taking it and notify your healthcare provider immediately, and seek medical attention right away.
Some symptoms of an Ozempic drug allergy include:
- Skin rash
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
Some people taking Ozempic have reported gallbladder problems. Symptoms of gallbladder issues include:
- Pain in your upper stomach (abdomen)
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
- Clay-colored stools
According to Ozempic’s website:
“In people who have kidney problems, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting may cause a loss of fluids (dehydration), which may cause kidney problems to get worse. It is important for you to drink fluids to help reduce your chance of dehydration.”
Symptoms of kidney failure include confusion, fatigue, a decrease in the volume of your urine, nausea, and swelling of your face and ankles/legs.
Semaglutide, by itself, usually doesn’t cause low blood sugar. But it can do so if taken with other diabetic medications or if not taken as prescribed by your doctor.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include confusion, drowsiness, headache, hunger, sweating, irritability, weakness, and a tingling sensation in your hands and feet.
Ozempic is associated with a higher prevalence of diabetic retinopathy than other GLP-1 receptor agonists. If you experience a change in your vision while taking Ozempic, let your healthcare provider know right away.
How long do Ozempic side effects tend to last?
Minor Ozempic side effects will likely last a few weeks as your body gets used to the new medication. Once you’ve been taking Ozempic for a while, you’re less likely to experience those minor side effects.
More serious side effects can last longer, such as pancreatitis and thyroid cancer. These side effects can last from weeks to months or years, depending on how quickly they’re diagnosed and treated.
How to reduce the side effects of Ozempic (semaglutide)
The best ways to reduce the side effects from taking Ozempic are taking it as prescribed, increasing the dose only as recommended by your healthcare provider, and immediately notifying your healthcare provider if you think you’re experiencing rare side effects.
Ozempic injection site pain
One of the more common side effects of injectable medications is injection site pain. To help reduce semaglutide injection site pain and redness, practice proper injection techniques such as:
- Cleaning the injection site with soap and water or alcohol
- Rotating the injection site weekly
- Make sure the medication is at room temperature
- Insert the needle quickly while injecting and at a straight angle
- Only inject Ozempic into the subcutaneous tissue, never into a muscle
- Avoiding alcohol abuse
- Not smoking
Ozempic (semaglutide)can cause minor side effects, which most commonly include gastrointestinal upset and injection site pain. More rarely, Ozempic might cause thyroid cancer, pancreatitis, and an allergic reaction.
If you think you’re experiencing a serious side effect from taking Ozempic, you should seek emergency medical attention.
As with any medication, you should weigh the potential pros and cons with a trusted healthcare provider to determine if it’s right for you. You could also consider some natural ozempic alternatives that typically have fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals.