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From common to rare, what are the side effects of Ozempic for weight loss?

Written by Nsisong Asanga

Published: May 14, 2024

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Sheelu Bhatnagar

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Ozempic (semaglutide) is a brand-name prescription medication administered as a weekly injection. When using Ozempic for weight loss, side effects can range from bothersome to serious and there are significant safety warnings too.  

As with any medication, it’s important to know the possible side effects of Ozempic for weight loss and how to deal with them before you start taking it. In this article, we answer what are the side effects of Ozempic for weight loss, how to manage them, and when you need to seek medical care.

If you have questions about prescription drugs like Ozempic, talk to a healthcare provider. Schedule an appointment with a weight loss provider on Klarity in as little as 24 hours. 

Get a prescription for Ozempic in as little as 24 hours.

What is Ozempic and why take it for weight loss?

Ozempic is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to lower blood sugar and A1C in people with type 2 diabetes. Its active ingredient, semaglutide, belongs to a class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. These medications mimic GLP-1, a naturally occurring hormone your intestines release into your digestive tract when you eat. 

GLP-1, and likewise GLP-1 agonist medications, prompt your body to produce more insulin which lowers your blood sugar. It also works for weight loss by reducing appetite and delaying stomach emptying to help you feel fuller for longer. 

There are 3 FDA-approved forms of semaglutide: Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus. Rybelsus is an oral semaglutide tablet approved to help control blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes. Like Ozempic, Wegovy is an injection, however it’s approved as a weight loss medication for adults and children aged 12 years and older. When comparing Ozempic vs Wegovy, it’s important to note that Wegovy uses higher doses of semaglutide

Although it’s an off-label use, your provider can prescribe Ozempic for weight loss if they think it’s the best drug to help you lose weight safely. Ozempic should be used as part of a medical weight loss program and isn’t meant for short-term or cosmetic weight loss. Only use it if it’s prescribed for you. 

What are the side effects of Ozempic for weight loss?

The side effects of Ozempic for weight loss vary from one person to another. Some side effects are common and happen in more than 10% of people who take Ozempic while others are rare. Serious side effects are possible with Ozempic and typically require immediate medical attention.

Common side effects of Ozempic for weight loss

The most common side effects of Ozempic for weight loss are usually gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. The risk for side effects increases with higher doses of the medication. During clinical trials, the most common effects of Ozempic for weight loss include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain

Serious side effects of Ozempic for weight loss

It’s possible to experience serious side effects of Ozempic for weight loss. Serious side effects to watch for include:  

  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia): Low blood sugar can be a serious complication of type 2 diabetes. Symptoms of low blood sugar include hunger, light-headedness, dizziness, blurred vision, rapid heartbeat, shakiness, weakness, sweating, anxiety, irritability, confusion, slurred speech, drowsiness, and headache. The risk of low blood sugar increases when Ozempic is used alongside other diabetic medications like sulfonylureas and insulin. 
  • Allergic reactions:  It’s possible to have an allergic reaction to Ozempic. Symptoms may include swelling of the face, tongue, and skin, rash, trouble breathing or swallowing, itching, fainting, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, or a severe immune response (anaphylaxis). Allergic reactions can be life-threatening. If you experience one, seek medical care immediately.
  • Vision changes: Ozempic can cause changes in vision. Get your eyes checked before and during your treatment with Ozempic. Report any vision changes to your providers. 
  • Kidney problems: New or worsening kidney problems are possible with Ozempic use. Side effects like diarrhea and vomiting can leave you dehydrated. This can lead to, or worsen, kidney problems. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated while taking Ozempic. 
  • Gallbladder problems: Symptoms of gallbladder disease include pain in your upper abdomen, fever, yellowing of the skin or eyes, or pale stools. If you develop these symptoms while taking Ozempic, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis): Abdominal pain that won’t go away or radiates to your back may be a symptom of pancreatitis. If you notice this symptom, call your healthcare provider right away.

What do people taking Ozempic for weight loss experience?

Many people taking Ozempic for weight loss share positive experiences. Most of the concerns voiced by real users in Ozempic reviews have been about the GI side effects. 

Reviews from Ozempic users also mention changes in their appearance. While this has been attributed to Ozempic and even dubbed “Ozempic Face”, “Ozempic Neck”, and “Ozempic Butt”,  these changes happen to your skin after you lose weight too quickly. If you are concerned about this, discuss it with your provider.

What else to know when considering Ozempic for weight loss?

When taking Ozempic for weight loss, it’s important to review any medications you’re taking and share your medical history with your provider. 

Ozempic can interact with other drugs

If you are taking other medication along with Ozempic, It’s a good idea to note possible interactions. Ozempic can interact with several drugs and increase or decrease their effects. 

Ozempic can increase the action of diabetic medications such as insulin and sulfonylureas. That means your risk of low blood sugar is higher when you take Ozempic and other medicines for diabetes. If you are already taking medication for diabetes, your provider may need to reduce your dose. 

Ozempic delays stomach emptying. That delay could potentially affect any oral medicine you are taking. Tell your healthcare provider about any medications you take while using Ozempic. This includes birth control pills, herbal medicines, supplements, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and home remedies. 

Ozempic has a boxed warning

Ozempic has an FDA-issued boxed warning to notify doctors, patients, and the public about the risk of thyroid cancers while using the drug. 

Animal studies reported a risk of thyroid cancers when using Ozempic. Researchers don’t know if this can happen in humans. As a precaution, you shouldn’t take Ozempic if you have a personal or family history of thyroid cancer. 

Watch for signs of thyroid tumors while taking Ozempic. Symptoms include changes in your voice and swelling or pain in your neck. Contact your provider immediately if you notice these symptoms. 

Some people shouldn’t take Ozempic 

Ozempic is generally effective and safe, but isn’t for everyone. You shouldn’t take Ozempic if:

  • You’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or plan to become pregnant within 2 months
  • You have an allergy to semaglutide or any other ingredients found in Ozempic
  • You have a personal or family history of thyroid cancers 
  • You have problems with your kidneys, gallbladder, or pancreas
  • You’ve had diabetic retinopathy 

About taking Ozempic and  drinking coffee or alcohol

If you drink coffee, consider drinking less while using Ozempic. Symptoms like jitteriness, digestive problems, poor sleep, or an increased heart rate, indicate that you shouldn’t mix coffee and Ozempic. Consider drinking black tea or green tea instead. 

Drinking alcohol while taking Ozempic may be harmful as it can increase your risk of low blood sugar. Avoid alcohol if your blood sugar isn’t well controlled or if you experience complications of diabetes, such as nerve damage. 

If you decide to drink alcohol while using Ozempic, try to limit your intake to 2 drinks a day for men and 1 a day for women. One drink is measured as 12 fluid ounces of beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine, or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof liquor (like rum, whisky or vodka). To reduce your risk of low blood sugar, don’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach or immediately after exercise. 

Ozempic isn’t intended for weight loss in people who don’t have type 2 diabetes

If you don’t have type 2 diabetes, using Ozempic isn’t a good idea. Ozempic is approved for people with type 2 diabetes to help lower their blood sugar and A1C, as well as reduce their risk of complications. 

If you’re overweight or living with obesity, speak to your healthcare provider about Wegovy instead. 

Wegovy may help you lose more weight if you have type 2 diabetes

When taking Ozempic for weight loss, doses are limited to 0.5 to 2.0 milligrams. Wegovy, which uses the same active ingredient (semaglutide), is available in higher doses — up to 2.4 milligrams. Clinical trials show that people lose more weight while using higher doses of semaglutide. It may be better to get Wegovy for weight loss if that’s your main goal. It’s FDA-approved specifically as a weight loss injection

If you have type 2 diabetes and need to lose weight, talk to your healthcare provider about your options. 

Can you avoid Ozempic side effects?

Experiences with Ozempic’s side effects vary by individual. While many people report little to no side effects, it’s hard to know how your body will respond to this medication. Some tips to reduce your chances of experiencing side effects of Ozempic include:

  • Follow the approved dosing schedule according to your provider’s advice. Starting at a low dose (0.5 milligrams), your provider will gradually increase your dose until you reach a maximum tolerated dose or the highest dose available (2.0 milligrams).
  • Take your dose on the same day each week. 
  • Change your injection site each week to avoid damaging your skin.
  • If you miss a dose, don’t double up next time. Instead, talk to your provider about what to do if you miss a dose.
  • Avoid taking other weight loss medication while taking Ozempic. 
  • Maintain a healthy diet rich in fiber and eat small, regular meals. Avoid spicy, fried, or fatty foods. Try bland foods instead.
  • Exercise regularly to help your digestive system function well. Aim for 150 to 300 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. 
  • Drink plenty of water every day. Aim for 15.5 cups per day for men and 11.5 cups for women. You can also have clear soups, broth, and vegetable juice besides plain or sparkling water.
  • Get enough sleep each day. Aim for at least 7 hours and stick to your sleep schedule. 

What you should do if you experience Ozempic side effects

If you have serious side effects of Ozempic, seek immediate medical attention. If you have low blood sugar, take a sugary drink or snack to help relieve symptoms. 

For mild side effects, adjusting your diet, activity, and sleep can reduce their intensity. A diet rich in fiber and fluid, regular exercise, and adequate sleep can help reduce mild side effects. 

OTC medicines can help to relieve specific side effects, like nausea or stomach pain. Some OTC medications that can help include:

OTC medicationClassCommon brand namesSymptoms addressed
IbuprofenNon-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID)Advil, Midol, MotrinHeadaches, may relieve muscular ache related to abdominal distension
Bismuth subsalicylateAnti-nauseaKaopectate, Pepto-BismolNausea, vomiting
SimethiconeAnti-gasGas-XGassiness, belching, burping
Polyethylene glycolLaxative GoLytely, MiraLax, Glycolax, GoEvacConstipation
Calcium carbonateAntacidTums, Alka-Seltzer, RolaidsHeartburn

Talk to your healthcare provider if your symptoms don’t improve as Ozempic may not be the best drug for you. They may adjust your dose or prescribe something else to help you reach your weight loss goals. 

Key takeaway 

Ozempic (semaglutide) is a prescription medication that lowers blood sugar and A1C in people with type 2 diabetes and can cause weight loss. Ozempic’s side effects range from the common to the less common and potentially serious. Ozempic isn’t recommended for weight loss without type 2 diabetes. Instead, talk to your provider about alternatives like Wegovy if weight loss is your main goal. 

Get a prescription for Ozempic from a provider on Klarity

Are you looking to lose weight for health reasons? With Klarity, you can find a weight loss provider and have an appointment in as little as 24 hours. Your provider can help you get the best treatment to achieve your health and weight loss goals. 

FAQs about the side effects of Ozempic for weight loss 

Who shouldn’t take Ozempic for weight loss?

Ozempic isn’t a weight loss medication, and it isn’t recommended for off-label use as such. Wegovy is a similar drug FDA-approved for weight loss that your healthcare provider can prescribe if it’s right for you. Avoid Ozempic (and Wegovy) if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, have a personal or family history of thyroid tumors, have diabetic retinopathy, have pancreas, kidney, or gallbladder disease, or have a serious GI condition. 

What is the biggest side effect of Ozempic?

The biggest side effects of Ozempic are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain. 

What are the most common side effects of using Ozempic for weight loss?

The most common side effects of using Ozempic for weight loss are digestive concerns, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain. Other common side effects are gas, heartburn, and indigestion. You’re more likely to experience side effects when starting the drug or when your dose is increased. 

Can Ozempic cause severe side effects when used for weight loss?

Yes, Ozempic can cause severe side effects when used for weight loss. Serious side effects include low blood sugar, allergic reactions, inflammation of the pancreas, gallbladder problems, kidney damage, vision problems, and loss of intestinal function. 

What are the long-term effects of using Ozempic for weight loss?

The long-term effects of using Ozempic for weight loss aren’t clear. Researchers are still studying how safe Ozempic is in the long term. 

Sources

CDC.gov, How Much Sleep Do I Need?, https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html

DailyMed, Medication Guide, Ozempic, semaglutide injection, Apr. 2024, https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/medguide.cfm?setid=35902e95-e00c-47ae-8f4e-ba17d41881ce#:~:text=OZEMPIC%20is%20injected%20under%20the

Drugs.com,  Ozempic and Food/Alcohol Interactions, Apr. 2024, https://www.drugs.com/food-interactions/semaglutide,ozempic.html

European Journal of Nutrition, Total water intake guidelines are sufficient for optimal hydration in United States adults, Feb. 2023, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35943601/

The Journal of Pharmacy Technology, Semaglutide for the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Dec. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6231279/

The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you have regarding your health.

How we reviewed this article: This article goes through rigorous fact-checking by a team of medical reviewers. Reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the author.

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