How to manage Ozempic side effects

How to manage Ozempic side effects

How to manage Ozempic side effects

Ozempic may cause some side effects. Here’s how to manage them—and when to call your provider.

Taayoo Murray
Last updated:
February 1, 2024
5 min read
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As much as people are seeking out Ozempic® as a weight loss solution, they may not be aware of how common side effects can be. Just over 74% of participants in a clinical trial of semaglutide—the active ingredient in Ozempic—experienced mild, temporary side effects like nausea, vomiting, and constipation. But 10% had more severe side effects, and 7% stopped using it because of the discomfort.

So if you’re taking it—or thinking about it—how do you manage Ozempic side effects? Can you avoid them? And if they become increasingly worse, when do you call a doctor?

Part of your strategy to find the right medication to manage weight is to get a personalized prescription that’s managed by a clinician who specializes in obesity medicine, like those affiliated with Found. In the past, patients took one-size-fits-all drugs for obesity and many felt they had to tough out any discomfort to get the results they hoped for.

Now, medical science knows more about the many causes of obesity and there is an entire portfolio of medication available, which means clinicians can match a medicine with your specific biology. And, if you work closely with your health care provider through treatment, they can fine-tune prescriptions and doses to help manage side effects or increase effectiveness.

Here’s what to know if you’re thinking about Ozempic or if you’re taking it. 

What is Ozempic?

Semaglutide is the active ingredient in both Ozempic and Wegovy®. While Ozempic is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat type 2 diabetes, Wegovy is FDA-approved to treat obesity. (Both are manufactured by Novo Nordisk.)

Even though Ozempic and Wegovy are approved for specific uses, Ozempic’s off-label use for weight loss among those with overweight or obesity increased its popularity. Another benefit of semaglutide: studies have found that it reduces the risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke in those with a history of cardiovascular disease. 

What are the most common Ozempic side effects?

The most common side effects of Ozempic are diarrhea, nausea, constipation, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Other reported Ozempic side effects are belching, bloating, farting, fatigue, dizziness, and muscle loss.

Some users have reported the following rare Ozempic side effects, many of which happen at the injection site: 

  • Bleeding
  • Blistering
  • Burning
  • Coldness
  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Feeling of pressure
  • Hives
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Itching
  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Rash
  • Redness
  • Scarring
  • Soreness
  • Stinging
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Tingling
  • Ulceration or warmth
  • Change in taste
  • Loss of taste 

How to manage Ozempic’s side effects 

Many people report nausea as a side effect when using Ozempic for weight loss. If your symptoms affect your day-to-day activities, discuss your dosage with your health care professional. Lowering your dose may reduce the nausea.

If you can’t change your dose, modify the foods you eat while taking Ozempic. Avoid fatty foods, sugary drinks, ultra-processed foods, and alcohol. You can also try home remedies like sipping ginger or peppermint tea, eating light, bland foods or getting some fresh air.

If you begin belching after starting Ozempic, try avoiding foods that can cause gas. Eating more slowly may also help. If your belching is still a problem, your health care professional may recommend an over-the-counter medication like simethicone (Gas-X).

Some people experience fatigue and tiredness while taking Ozempic. It’s possible that your body is adjusting to eating less, affecting your energy levels. As you get used to taking semaglutide for weight loss, try to get as much quality sleep as possible, include some movement during the day, and maintain a balanced and healthy diet.

As your body adjusts to the Ozempic, you may get constipated. Because you are eating less, you may also be drinking less liquids. You can combat constipation by drinking more water every day. Increasing daily movement and adding more fiber to your diet may also help.

If at any time you feel concerned about any symptoms you are having while taking Ozempic, seek medical advice from your health care provider.

How long do Ozempic’s side effects last?

The common side effects of Ozempic, like nausea, fatigue, and constipation, are unpleasant but usually go away after a few days. Sometimes, however, they can last for weeks. If the side effects you are experiencing on Ozempic don’t go away or become too bothersome, seek medical advice from your health care professional.

If you’re taking a 2 mg weekly dose of Ozempic, you may still experience side effects even after stopping the medication. Clinical trials have shown that Ozempic stays in the body for about five weeks after it’s been discontinued.

When to see your health care professional about your side effects

In some cases, taking Ozempic can cause serious side effects. Be on the lookout for these specific symptoms associated with serious medical conditions. Contact your health care provider if you experience any of these: 

  • Acute kidney injury and kidney problems: bloody urine, decreased urine output, muscle twitching, nausea, rapid weight gain, seizures, stupor, swelling of the face, ankles, or hands, or unusual tiredness or weakness.
  • Severe allergic reactions like anaphylaxis and angioedema: rash, itching, hoarseness, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, mouth, or throat while using this medicine.
  • Pancreatitis (swelling of the pancreas): sudden and severe stomach pain, chills, constipation, nausea, vomiting, fever, or lightheadedness.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: blurred vision or any other vision changes.
  • Thyroid tumors: Ozempic has an FDA boxed warning for thyroid cancer. See your health care provider if you have a lump or swelling in your neck or throat, trouble swallowing or breathing, or if your voice gets hoarse.
  • Cholelithiasis/Cholecystitis: You may have gallbladder problems if you have gaseous stomach pain, indigestion, recurrent fever, severe nausea or vomiting, stomach fullness, or yellow eyes or skin. Seek immediate care.

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar or glucose levels, is a possible side effect when taking Ozempic. Taking insulin and other diabetes medications while using Ozempic can cause low blood sugar. The common symptoms are confusion, blurred vision, cold sweats, difficulty thinking, and unusual tiredness or weakness.

If you skip a dose of Ozempic, you can develop hyperglycemia, also known as high blood sugar or glucose levels. The side effects are blurred vision, drowsiness, nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of consciousness.

For more information about side effects and risks, visit our dedicated Ozempic page

What are Ozempic's long-term side effects?

Long-term side effects of Ozempic can show up in different ways. Gastrointestinal Ozempic side effects are most common. Continuous nausea and vomiting can make it harder for the body to absorb nutrients, affecting your mood and energy levels.

Ozempic use is tied to a rare but increased risk of a severe stomach problem called gastroparesis. It is also known as stomach paralysis. Research published in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, showed stomach paralysis as a side effect of Ozempic use. The condition causes the stomach to empty too slowly or stop emptying. Ozempic delays the emptying of the stomach, which reduces feelings of hunger, increasing weight loss. However, prolonged gastroparesis can cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

In late September 2023, the FDA updated the official Ozempic label to warn users of a potential risk of ileus, a type of intestinal blockage. Ileus occurs when the intestine (bowel) can’t contract normally to move waste through the body. The symptoms are similar to physical bowel obstruction, and you will feel bloated and constipated. If this continues without treatment, it can lead to dehydration or, in rare cases, more serious complications.  

Who shouldn’t take Ozempic?

Don’t take Ozempic if:

  • You are breastfeeding as there isn’t any research on if it can pass through breast milk. 
  • If you or an immediate family member have been diagnosed with medullary thyroid carcinoma. The use of Ozempic (semaglutide) may increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer. 
  • If you have multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2, a rare endocrine condition that increases your risk of thyroid cancer.
  • If you have pancreatitis or are at risk of pancreatitis.
  • If you have type 1 diabetes; it can increase the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Seek medical advice from your health care provider before using Ozempic.

What drugs shouldn’t be taken with Ozempic? 

It is important that you tell your health care professional all medication you’re on before you start taking Ozempic. This includes over-the-counter medications like aspirin, and drugs for appetite control, asthma, colds, cough, hay fever, sinus problems, and any supplements. Drinking alcohol while taking Ozempic can worsen the effects of hypoglycemia. Discuss alcohol use with your health care professional to be safe. If you are an insulin-dependent diabetic and taking Ozempic, you may be at increased risk for developing hypoglycemia. 

What can you do if you can’t take Ozempic? 

If you are concerned that Ozempic may not be a good fit for you, other medications are available that can help you reach your weight and health goals.

In fact, not every medication used for weight loss is the right solution for everyone: It depends on the root cause of your weight blockers.

Physicians trained in obesity medicine can personalize a prescription based on your biology. Found-affiliated providers use our proprietary MetabolicPrint™ assessment to discover what’s keeping you from losing weight so they can personalize a treatment plan based on your unique metabolic health profile. 

About Found

To discover your MetabolicPrint and start your journey with Found, take our quiz. Found is among the largest medically supported weight care clinics in the country, having served more than 200,000 members to date.

GLP-1*

GLP-1 prescriptions, filled through your local pharmacy, are now available as part of Found's weight-loss toolkit. While GLP-1s can be effective for weight loss, they are not clinically appropriate for everyone. Eligibility for a GLP-1 is based on a thorough evaluation of your medical history and lab work. If a GLP-1 is not appropriate for you, our providers will work with you to determine an effective medication for your health profile.

Published date:
February 1, 2024
Meet the author
Taayoo Murray
Freelance health journalist

Sources

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  • Ward, Z. J., Bleich, S. N., Cradock, A. L., Barrett, J. L., Giles, C. M., Flax, C., Long, M. W., & Gortmaker, S. L. (2019b). Projected U.S. State-Level Prevalence of Adult Obesity and Severe Obesity. N Engl J Med, 381(25), 2440–2450. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMsa1909301
  • GLP-1 RA Mechanism Of Action | Ozempic® (semaglutide) Injection 0.5 Mg, 1 Mg, Or 2 Mg. (n.d.). NovoMEDLINK. Retrieved January 19, 2024, from https://www.novomedlink.com/diabetes/products/treatments/ozempic/about/mechanism-of-action.html#:~:text=~7%20days%20%7C%20Elimination%20half%2Dlife%20of%20~7%20days.&text=Steady%2Dstate%20plasma%20concentrations%20achieved,weeks%20of%20once%2Dweekly%20administration
  • Ozempic(semaglutide) FDA boxed warning https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2022/209637s009lbl.pdf
  • Sodhi, M., Rezaeianzadeh, R., Kezouh, A., & Etminan, M. (2023). Risk of Gastrointestinal Adverse Events Associated With Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonists for Weight Loss. JAMA, 330(18), 1795. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2023.19574
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