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What Are Ozempic Side Effects?

Written by: Content Team



Time to read 9 min

Ozempic is one of the most popular diabetes drugs of the 21st century, but not for treating diabetes. Since 2022, Ozempic has been used off-label as a weight-loss drug, and many people have seen tangible results that support this use.

However, many have reported that this weight loss came at the cost of multiple side effects that include nausea, digestive issues, and a gaunt look known as “Ozempic face.”

In this article, we’ll break down the different Ozempic side effects and how to avoid or minimize them.

Possible Side Effects of Ozempic

Gastrointestinal Problems

Ozempic’s most popular side effects are gastrointestinal, mainly involving the stomach and/or the intestines. Not everyone who uses Ozempic experiences these side effects, but they’re the most reported and discussed ones.

Ozempic’s main gastrointestinal side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Acid reflux (less common)
  • Bloating (abdominal distension)
  • Flatulence

However, most patients experienced these side effects only at the beginning of treatment or when they increased the dose.

According to FDA (Food and Drug Administration) reports, the likelihood of getting gastrointestinal side effects almost doubles each time the dose increases.

For example, during clinical trials, patients taking the lowest dose of Ozempic (1 mg) reported feeling nausea at a rate of 20.3%. However, when they took the higher dose of 2.4 mg, the rate of nausea almost doubled to 44.2%.

Also, at the maximum dose of Ozempic, almost 74% of the patients reported at least one of the gastrointestinal side effects.

However, since Ozempic is taken once a week, the side effects are usually strongest during the first couple of days following the injection and then get milder.

Remember that with time, your body starts getting used to Ozempic, and these side effects become much rarer. This is why most healthcare providers recommend that you stick with it to the best of your ability.

Here are several things that can help you manage the gastrointestinal side effects of Ozempic.

Tips for Managing Gastrointestinal Side Effects

  • Stay hydrated: Make sure to drink plenty of cool water and electrolyte-containing beverages to make up for those lost through diarrhea or vomiting. This is especially important for people with diabetes so it doesn’t affect their blood sugar control.
  • Eat small and slow: Eat smaller portions and chew slowly to make digestion easier and avoid abdominal pains or acid reflux.
  • Stay upright: Avoid lying down or sleeping right after a meal.
  • Avoid fried food: Avoid overly greasy, sugary, or spicy foods, which often lead to indigestion and stomach problems. Instead, eat more easy to digest, low-fat food such as rice or toast.
  • Get fresh air: When you feel nauseous, go outside and get some fresh air. It can help relieve your dizziness and keep you from vomiting.

Ozempic Burps

Some people taking Ozempic have complained about belching more than usual and that their burps had a foul, sulfurous smell.

This rotten-egg-like odor was eventually coined Ozempic Burps, and although it’s not quite as common as gastrointestinal side effects, it’s still a possibility.

A few studies have suggested that the Ozempic Burps, much like the gastrointestinal side effects, were worse at the start of treatment and when the dosage was increased.

Gastroparesis (Stomach Paralysis)

Gastroparesis or delayed gastric emptying. Visual comparison of healthy gastric and stomach with Gastroparesi
Gastroparesis or delayed gastric emptying. Visual comparison of healthy gastric and stomach with Gastroparesi. Source: DepositPhotos

In July 2023, CNN reported that some people taking Ozempic developed gastroparesis, which means their stomachs became temporarily paralyzed. According to the report, some people stopped taking Ozempic, but they still didn’t get better for a few months, although those were very few cases.

Delayed gastric emptying, or gastroparesis, means the patients weren’t digesting food as efficiently as they should, and even the digested food wasn’t moving along their gastrointestinal tracts fast enough.

When food stays in your stomach longer than it should, you start experiencing gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, bloating, and abdominal pain.

Gastroparesis makes it difficult to eat or drink anything, which puts you at an increased risk of dehydration and malnutrition. However, this only happens in cases of severe gastroparesis, which were extremely rare during clinical trials.

Mild gastroparesis, on the other hand, is considered a benefit rather than a side effect. It curbs hunger and helps you eat less, making it easier to lose weight.

Ileus (Intestinal Paralysis)

Another severe -but relatively rare- side effect of Ozempic is ileus, which means temporary intestinal paralysis. Normally, your intestines have involuntary muscles that contract to move the food along the intestinal tract.

When an ileus occurs, the food can stop moving, which causes a temporary blockage in your intestines. This causes constipation, bloating, and even dehydration in some cases.

However, ileus is one of the rarer side effects of Ozempic, and it hasn’t affected the FDA’s safety ratings for the drug.

Rapid Weight Loss

In January of 2023, social media was buzzing with talk about Ozempic’s latest side effects: Ozempic Face and “Ozempic Butt.”

People taking Ozempic for some time started noticing their faces and buttocks becoming more saggy, with loose or deflated skin.

This happens because Ozempic causes rapid, extreme weight loss in the face, buttocks, and curvier areas of the body. This side effect can happen with almost any drug that causes severe weight loss in a short period, not just Ozempic.

Tips for Managing Rapid Weight Loss on Ozempic

  • Drink plenty of fluids: Staying hydrated improves your skin’s elasticity and helps it bounce back quickly.
  • Exercise: Focus on strength and resistance training to build muscle, which reduces the appearance of saggy skin.
  • Get your vitamins: Eat foods that are rich in vitamins A, C, and E, such as egg yolks, citrus fruits, leafy greens, and nuts. These vitamins boost the collagen and elastin in your skin, which makes your skin thicker, more elastic, and less saggy.
  • Creams and lotions: Use skin-restoring creams that contain collagen or retinol, as well as vitamins C and E. Hydrating body lotions can also help reduce the appearance of saggy skin by trapping in moisture for a plump, healthy complexion.
  • Surgical options: Most healthcare providers recommend surgical treatments only if you’ve lost about 100 pounds or more in a short period. You can consider options such as excess skin removal surgery.

Vision Problems (Diabetic Retinopathy)

A mature woman close up
A mature woman close up. Source: DepositPhotos

Diabetic retinopathy is a serious eye condition that starts with blurry vision and leads to blindness. People with diabetes have a greater risk of diabetic retinopathy, especially if they have uncontrolled high blood sugar.

During clinical trials, scientists found that Ozempic may slightly increase your chances of diabetic retinopathy.

Strangely enough, even though Ozempic lowers your blood sugar level -being an anti-diabetes drug- the rapid lowering effect can negatively impact your eyesight. As your blood sugar levels become stable, the likelihood of developing vision problems decreases with time.

However, even if the effects are temporary, it’s important to speak to your doctor if you have any risk factors for diabetic retinopathy, such as:

  • Having diabetes for over five years
  • High cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood sugar
  • Kidney disease
  • Other eye or vision problems
  • Family history of diabetic retinopathy

Tips for Managing Vision Problems

  • Regular checkups: It's important to get regular vision checkups and follow up with your ophthalmologist (eye doctor) if you experience any vision problems.
  • Annual Dilated Eye Exam: The ADA (American Diabetes Association) recommends that all people with diabetes get an annual dilated eye exam, especially if they’re taking Ozempic.

Thyroid Cancer

When you open a box of Ozempic, you’ll see a huge black box with a warning on the inner pamphlet saying Ozempic may cause thyroid tumors or thyroid cancer.

This warning is based on animal studies where rats given Ozempic had an increased risk of developing thyroid tumors. This theory has never been tested nor proven with humans, but you should still be aware of this potential side effect.

To be safe, you should not use Ozempic if you or anyone in your family has a history of thyroid cancer or tumors.

Tips for Early Detection of Thyroid Tumors

Contact your doctor right away if you’ve been taking Ozempic and notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Neck pain, lumps, or swelling
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Persistent coughing
  • Changes or hoarseness in your voice

Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)

Glucometer, diabetes syringe, pen and medical form on white background
Glucometer, diabetes syringe, pen and medical form on white background . Source: DepositPhotos

Like most anti-diabetes medications, there’s always a chance Ozempic might lower your blood sugar levels or cause hypoglycemia. For people with diabetes, this can be considered a therapeutic advantage rather than a side effect.

However, if you’re already taking other medications, such as insulin therapy or oral antidiabetic drugs, be careful when you start Ozempic. You might develop severe hypoglycemia, where your blood sugar drops dangerously low, causing low glucose supply to your brain or other organs.

Tips for Managing Hypoglycemia on Ozempic

  • Monitor your blood sugar: Regularly test your blood glucose levels, especially when you first start taking Ozempic and when you increase the dosage.
  • Notice the symptoms: Contact your doctor right away if you feel any symptoms of hypoglycemia, such as lightheadedness, blurred vision, rapid heartbeat, sweating, or slurred speech.
  • Consume simple carbs: If your blood sugar is low, try eating or drinking simple carbs such as fruit juice or hard candy. You can also use glucose tablets.
  • Medication adjustment: Talk to your doctor about changing your diabetes medication or lowering the dosage if you find your blood sugar dropping regularly.
  • Avoid alcohol: Drinking alcohol while on Ozempic or other anti-diabetes medication can cause severe low blood sugar.

Serious Allergic Reactions

Close up portrait of a young Caucasian woman in close-up showing rosacea on her cheeks with her hand. White background. Rosacea and inflammation on the face.
Close up portrait of a young Caucasian woman in close-up showing rosacea on her cheeks with her hand. White background. Rosacea and inflammation on the face. . Source: DepositPhotos

There have been very few cases of people having a serious allergic reaction after taking Ozempic. However, this only happens when your body is allergic to the active ingredient, semaglutide.

That means that any drug containing that active ingredient will result in the same allergic reaction, not just Ozempic.

That’s why it’s important to check for signs of an allergic reaction when you first start using this weight-loss drug. Some of the most important signs and symptoms to look for include:

  • Swelling, especially in the face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Rashes
  • Rapid heartbeats
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty breathing or severe pain

Weight Loss - The Wanted Side Effect

Since Ozempic is officially FDA-approved for treating diabetes, its weight loss effect is considered a side effect or an off-label use.

During clinical trials, Ozempic’s manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, noticed that patients taking the drug to control their blood sugar started losing weight. More specifically, they lost about 9.3 to 14.1 pounds in over 40 weeks

This sparked Ozempic’s widespread off-label use for obese and overweight individuals.

However, remember that to get the best out of Ozempic’s weight loss abilities, you still need to follow a proper diet and exercise plan.

Should You Take Ozempic? Weighing the Benefits and Risks

After reading all of these potential side effects, it’s perfectly normal to reconsider taking Ozempic. However, keep in mind that most of these side effects are either extremely rare, while the common ones are generally manageable.

Before starting the medication, you should compare the risks and benefits with your doctor.

Some of Ozempic’s benefits include:

Also, keep in mind that if your doctor decides you shouldn’t take Ozempic, then other popular weight-loss medications, such as Wegovy, will likely be out of the question, as well.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, with the information in this article, you now know what to expect on your Ozempic weight loss journey and how to safely deal with its side effects.

If you’re considering Ozempic as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, you should check with your doctor to keep your condition monitored.

However, if you rely on insulin therapy to manage your diabetes, then you should check out the InsuJet V5 Injector for pain-free, needle-free insulin delivery.

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