Ozempic is one of the many injectable diabetes medications available today. While it’s similar to others on the market, it offers several unique aspects, too. 

In this article, we’ll look at how Ozempic works, who can take it, and the most common side effects.

Ozempic pen and box

Key Points:

  • Ozempic, a GLP-1 agonist, helps with diabetes management by improving insulin sensitivity, reducing appetite, decreasing liver glucose production, and slowing food digestion, leading to potential A1c and fasting blood sugar reductions.
  • Intended for people with type 2 diabetes who are not using insulin, Ozempic is not a first-line treatment, but it may be considered if other medications like metformin are ineffective.
  • Common side effects of Ozempic include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and constipation, which are related to its effects on stomach digestion. Serious but less common side effects include thyroid tumors, pancreatitis, and severe allergic reactions.
  • Ozempic’s suitability and safety should be discussed with healthcare professionals, especially for people with a history of pancreatic, kidney, or thyroid issues, and it’s not recommended for people under 18 or with certain medical conditions.

What is Ozempic?

Semaglutide — known under the brand name Ozempic — is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonist.

Taken via injection once per week, Ozempic works to improve your blood sugar in several ways.

Read more in: Everything You Need to Know About Ozempic.

Who can take Ozempic?

Ozempic is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes and is also approved to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, or death in adults with type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Ozempic is not a substitute for insulin.

Ozempic is not recommended as a first-line treatment, or the first pharmaceutical treatment you try. Instead, medications like metformin would be used first, and Ozempic could be an eventual choice if other options aren’t effective.

Find out more about Ozempic and metformin in: Can You Take Metformin and Ozempic Together?

The dosage of Ozempic should start small and be increased gradually to the full dose over the course of 4 weeks. This should be managed closely by your healthcare team.

Learn more in: Ozempic Dosage Guide: How Much Should You Take?

You should talk to your doctor before taking Ozempic if

  • You have a history of problems with your pancreas or kidneys
  • You have a history of diabetic retinopathy (eye disease)
  • You are pregnant or plan to become pregnant soon
  • You are breastfeeding

You shouldn’t take Ozempic if

  • You have a history of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • You are under 18 years old
  • You have a history of thyroid tumors or thyroid cancer
  • You or a family member ever had medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) or Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2)

Common Ozempic side effects

According to the manufacturer, the most common side effects of Ozempic include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation

These side effects are directly related to the drug’s impact on your stomach’s rate of digestion, which benefits your blood sugar levels.

I had a lot of nausea and vomiting for the first three to four weeks, but that has since dissipated.

Stevie Cook (read about Stevie’s experience with Ozempic)

Rare but serious Ozempic side effects 

A variety of less common but serious side effects are also linked to this medication, such as:

  • Thyroid tumors — possibly cancerous. Symptoms may include:
    • Swelling in your neck
    • Hoarseness in throat
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Shortness of breath
  • Pancreatitis. Symptoms may include:
    • Pain in your abdomen or back
  • Changes in your vision. Tell your healthcare team immediately about any changes you detect in your eyesight.
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). If you are experiencing lows, discuss this with your doctor so they can adjust your Ozempic dosage or the other medicines you’re taking.
  • Worsened kidney issues and kidney failure.
  • Serious allergic reaction. Symptoms may include:
    • Itching
    • Rash
    • Difficulty breathing

The concern regarding thyroid tumors is based on the results of studies using Ozempic and similar medications in animal studies. In this research, some rats and mice developed thyroid tumors, some of which were cancerous. It’s not known if Ozempic has this effect in humans.

Note: Following the approval of a medication by the FDA, the agency continues to monitor its side effects. Should you experience any adverse effects from using Ozempic, you are encouraged to report them to the FDA through their MedWatch program.

Weight loss as an Ozempic side effect

Weight loss is another significant side effect associated with Ozempic. Although it has not been approved as a weight-loss medicine, semaglutide at a higher dose is used in the medication Wegovy, which is specifically designed for this purpose. 

Additionally, many people have been prescribed Ozempic off-label (in a manner not officially approved by the FDA) for this purpose.

Learn more in: Can Ozempic Help You Lose Weight?

Rapid and significant weight loss, whether from medicine or other factors, can lead to changes in physical appearance. 

One of these is changes in facial contours, or what is colloquially known as “Ozempic face.” In this scenario, facial skin may sag or become wrinkled, the face may appear hollowed, or the eyes may appear sunken. 

If you experience changes in your physical appearance that are concerning while taking Ozempic, it’s important to consult with your medical team. 

To prevent Ozempic face, solutions may include lowering the dosage or stopping the medication. This should only be done in close consultation with your healthcare provider. In cases where the situation is causing distress, facial fillers may help. 

How do I reduce the side effects?

The most common side effects of Ozempic are gastrointestinal. For example, in clinical trials, 15.8 percent of people experienced nausea, 8.5 percent experienced diarrhea, and 7.5 percent experienced abdominal pain.

To reduce side effects such as nausea, the manufacturer recommends the following steps:

  • Eat bland foods, such as crackers, rice, and toast
  • Eat foods containing water, such as soups and gelatin
  • Avoid greasy, fried, and sweet foods
  • Eat more slowly
  • Drink clear or ice-cold liquids
  • Don’t lie down after eating
  • Go outside for fresh air

Find out more in: Foods to Avoid While Taking Ozempic.

How long does it take the side effects of Ozempic to stop?

Common side effects from Ozempic generally disappear within a few days or weeks, as your body gets used to the medicine. 

If your side effects last longer than this, are distressing, or are serious, speak with your healthcare provider.

If you stop taking the medicine, you may continue to feel side effects for a few weeks as it leaves your system.

Learn more about this medicine in Everything You Need to Know About Ozempic. Did you find this article helpful? Click Yes or No below to let us know!